The traditional handshake has been a way of greeting someone for decades. The high five has always been common amongst social settings and friends but scientists believe that there is only one way that people should greet each other that significantly transmits fewer germs and bacteria. Fist bumping is just that way and it still addresses the cultural expectation of hand-to-hand contact between patients and clinicians.

In the study conducted in the August issue of the American Journal of Infection Control researchers performed trials to determine whether alternative greetings would transmit fewer germs than traditional ways like the handshake. The experiment involved a greeter that had on a sterile glove and immersed it into a container of germs. Once it dried the greeter then exchanged handshakes, fist bumps or a high-five with a sterile glove recipient. Each exchange was varied in terms of duration, intensity and contact.

After the greeting was performed the sterile glove was then immersed in a solution that would be able to count the number of bacteria and germs that had been transferred during contact. What the results found was that nearly twice as many bacteria were transferred during a handshake compared to a high-five but there was significantly fewer bacteria transferred from a fist bump compared to a high-five. With all the greetings an increase in bacteria transfer was found with longer durations of contact and stronger grips of the greeting.

“Adoption of the fist bump as a greeting could substantially reduce the transmission of infectious diseases between individuals,” said corresponding author, David Whitworth, PhD. “It is unlikely that a no-contact greeting could supplant the handshake; however, for the sake of improving public health we encourage further adoption of the fist bump as a simple, free, and more hygienic alternative to the handshake.”

This study expanded on the need to ban handshakes from hospitals as was stated in the recent call from the Journal of American Medical Association. Hands are one of the prime suspects in spreading potentially harmful germs to patients that lead to what is known as healthcare-associated infections. A big problem in hospitals.