By continuing to use the site you agree to our Privacy & Cookies policy

Your browser seems to have cookies disabled. For the best experience of this website, please enable cookies in your browser.


Your browser is no longer supported

For the best possible experience using our website we recommend you upgrade to a newer version or another browser.


Don't shake hands with patients during flu outbreak, study suggests

Nurses might want to consider avoiding shaking hands with patients during flu outbreaks or in other infection control situations, after a UK study found a handshake transferred more bacteria than similar forms of greeting.

Aberystwyth University researchers wearing rubber gloves dipped their hands in E. coli before exchanging handshakes, high fives and fist-bumps.

Nearly twice as many bacteria were transferred during a handshake compared with a high five, and nearly 10 times as much for the fist-bump. A stronger handshake also increased the amount of bacteria shared.

“People rarely think about the health implications of shaking hands”

Dave Whitworth

The researchers suggested the hygienic nature of the fist-bump may be due in part to it being typically much quicker than a handshake and because a smaller skin area is involved.

The study was inspired by an increase in measures to promote cleanliness in the workplace, such as hand-sanitizers and keyboard disinfectants.

The authors noted that previous studies on patient experience had specifically encouraged health professionals to offer handshakes to meet expectations and to develop a rapport.

Writing in the American Journal of Infection Control, they said: “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.”

Lead study author Dr Dave Whitworth added: “People rarely think about the health implications of shaking hands.”


Readers' comments (3)

  • Ellen Watters

    I'd love to see nurses and patients, and doctors fist bump as a way of greeting..:)

    Unsuitable or offensive?

  • If I went for a hospital appointment and anyone tried to 'fist bump' or 'high five' me I and most adults over the age of 40 would probably wonder what had happened to the world!

    Unsuitable or offensive?

  • More ridiculous drivel... perhaps we should just stop touching patients in way at all??!

    Unsuitable or offensive?

Have your say

You must sign in to make a comment.

Related Jobs

Sign in to see the latest jobs relevant to you!