Pound It: Fist Bumps More Hygenic Than Handshakes — Physician’s First Watch

Medical News |
July 29, 2014

Pound It: Fist Bumps More Hygenic Than Handshakes

By Kelly Young

Edited by David G. Fairchild, MD, MPH, and Jaye Elizabeth Hefner, MD

Fist bumps spread far less bacteria that handshakes do, according to research being published in the American Journal of Infection Control.

To test whether shaking hands, fist-bumping, or high-fiving would transfer the most bacteria, one researcher wore a glove dipped in a broth rich in E. coli, while another researcher's glove was sterilized. Following each greeting, the researchers measured how much bacteria had been transferred to the sterilized glove.

Handshakes conferred the highest bacterial transfer. Compared with handshakes, high-fives cut bacterial transfer by more than half, and fist-bumping reduced it by 90%.

The researchers say their results might be explained by the high speed and low surface area of the fist bump.

Reader Comments (6)

SHEILA PACK, PA--C Other Healthcare Professional, Internal Medicine, New York-Presbyterian Hospital

While fist bumping is certainly a good option to a warm handshake, we tend to touch elbows or hug, depending on how familiar we are with the person we are greeting.

Neeta Soni Physician, Oncology

If we are going to look at new ways of greeting, I would vote for "Namaste" which will make the rate of transmission 0%.


The gesture Namaste represents the belief that there is a Divine spark within each of us that is located in the heart chakra. The gesture is an acknowledgment of the soul in one by the soul in another. Nama means bow, as means I, and te means you. Therefore, namaste literally means "bow me you" or "I bow to you."

To perform Namaste, we place the hands together at the heart charka, close the eyes, and bow the head. It can also be done by placing the hands together in front of the third eye, bowing the head, and then bringing the hands down to the heart. This is an especially deep form of respect. Although in the West the word "namaste" is usually spoken in conjunction with the gesture, in India, it is understood that the gesture itself signifies Namaste, and therefore, it is unnecessary to say the word while bowing.

maarten Vasbinder MD Physician, Family Medicine/General Practice, spain

they should have tried "Namaste", the buddhist greeting and kissing on the cheek too.

Tien-Lan Chang, M.D. Physician, Pediatrics/Adolescent Medicine, private practice

The money for this research was not well spent. For this to be in the news is also a wasted info. Greeting by bowing or a salute would be better than either fist bump or a hand shake in reduction of infection risk. Should we study that too?

Eric Unzicker MD Physician, Family Medicine/General Practice

Here, here!

David L Keller MD Physician, Internal Medicine, Independent

This experiment underestimates the reduction in bacterial transfer with fist bumping, because the fists bump on the dorsal surface of the hand, which is covered in dry skin, while hand shaking and high fives involve contact between the ventral (palms) surfaces, which are moist. In addition, nose pickers have staph aureus on their fingers, with which the fist bump avoids contact entirely. I have been fist bumping for years, and I am as white, middle aged, and uncool as they come.

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