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Fist Bumps: More Than Just Cool

Fist bumps made national headlines when President Obama fist bumped his wife, Michelle, after winning re-election to the presidency 2012.  Other famous figures like the Dalai Lama have also been spotted fist bumping rather than shaking hands.  Turns out it’s more than just “cool” to fist bump instead of rely on the formal handshake to greet others.  Specifically, researchers from the UK have found that fist bumping transmits 90% fewer germs than the handshake.  Maybe it’s time we reconsider the way we greet one another?

Long, Firm Handshakes Don’t Just Convey Manners

Researchers with the Centers for Disease Control and the University of Aberystwyth University-Ceredigion in the United Kingdom looked at the bacterial transmission through handshakes, fist bumps and high fives.  To complete the experiment, a researcher repeatedly dipped a rubber glove into a container of E. coli.  The glove was then allowed to dry before the researcher wearing the glove shook, high-fived or fist bumped another gloved person with no bacteria present before contact.  The previously clean glove was then tested for amount of bacteria transferred from the first glove.  The results showed that the longest, firmest handshakes transferred the most bacteria and that overall a handshake transferred ten times the amount than a fist bump.

A World of Fist Bumps?

The researchers ultimately found the reason behind the decreased transfer of bacteria when fist bumping: less hand-to-hand contact.  When dipping the gloves in a vat of paint rather than E. coli and repeating the test, it was obvious that less hand-to-hand contact occurred with the fist bump.  And while it may seem logical to encourage the fist bump rather than shaking hands, other health experts say it would be better for us to avoid hand-to-hand contact altogether when greeting one another and to also emphasize frequent hand washing.  This ban of hand-to-hand contact would be especially helpful in medical settings, where it is crucial to maintain a high level of sanitary conditions.

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