Fist Bumps Spread Fewer Germs Than Handshakes

Go ahead and fist bump a friend, it’s healthier and less germy than a handshake or high-five, says a new study.

“When we have hand contact between one person and another person we’re exchanging germs,” said Bruce Hirsch, MD, an attending physician at North Shore University Hospital’s division of infectious diseases.

“With a fist bump, there’s less physical contact than either a high-five or a firm handshake. We touch our environment and touch ourselves not usually with a fist but with the inside of our hand. That skin on the inside of our hand might contain more bacteria and respiratory viruses.”

Scientists at Aberystwyth University in Wales tested different forms of greeting and how they affected the transmission of E.coli in a healthcare setting.

"Indeed, health professionals have been specifically encouraged to offer handshakes to meet patients' expectations and to develop a rapport with them," the researchers wrote.

Bumping knuckles spreads only one-twentieth the amount of bacteria that a handshake does, researchers report. And, a high-five passes along fewer than half the amount of germs as a handshake.

So, could Dr. Hirsch see his physician peers fist-bumping patients?

“Certainly, but I think there are other ways of indicating respect and regard for another person, such as a nod, direct eye contact and a smile,” he explained. “Hand contact is very over-rated.”

Results of the study were published online today in the American Journal of Infection Control.

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