News | Published September 1, 2014 | Written by Marlene Stetson, RN, CIC, director of infection prevention and control, Mount Nittany Medical Center

Are we fist-bumping our way to fewer infections?

Many people think you can learn a lot about someone by their handshake. As an infection control and prevention coordinator, to me a handshake means germs. So much to my amusement, the American Journal of Infection Control recently published a report offering a more hygienic way to shake someone’s hand: the fist bump.

Now I know what you’re thinking: you wouldn’t be caught dead offering up a fist bump the next time you’re meting with someone important. But let’s look at the report’s findings, because frankly, you might be more inclined to reintroduce the air-high-five after hearing these scary statistics.

The report shows that direct contact between individuals—such as with the handshake—can potentially transmit infection-causing organisms. 

In the study, almost twice as many bacteria were transferred during a handshake than compared with a high five, and when compared to the fist bump, a handshake gave about 10 times greater transmission of bacteria.

And for those with the over-zealous strong-grip handshakes, even more bacteria were transferred. Yuck!

Above all else, it’s important to remember that rigorous hand washing is key to preventing and controlling the spread of infection. Use warm, soapy water and remember to scrub in between your fingers, on the backs of your hands, and under your nails.