There’s always been this “manners” stigma associated with how one should greet their elders. But this only happens in certain cultures, for instance in most South African black communities, it is believed that showing respect to your elders is shaking their hands when greeting.
However, scientists at Aberystwyth University in Wales have found that handshakes transfer more bacteria than other forms of hand-on-hand action.
The researchers took a pair of sterile rubber gloves and dipped one into a bacterial-broth, so the outside was completely coated in E. coli, BBC news website reported.
They then performed a range of hand manoeuvres including handshakes of varying intensities, fist bumps and high-fives.
The results of the study showed a handshake transferred 10 times as many bacteria as a meeting of fists, while a palm-to-palm high-five was somewhere in-between. The findings were published in the American Journal of Infection Control.
Researchers told BBC the smaller area of contact and shorter duration in the bump reduced the spread of bacteria.
Spreading of Superbugs
Dr Dave Whitworth said: “There is definitely a serious side to this story, superficially it is very whimsical, but there is a serious message underneath. If there’s a flu pandemic then handshaking might be something you want to think about or in a hospital with the spread of superbugs.”
He added: “There’s a lot of inertia into changing this, a handshake is a badge of office and medics are trained to have a firm handshake to infuse patients with confidence, but you’ve got to ask is that appropriate behaviour.”
Peter Hoffman, an expert in infection control at Public Health England, told the BBC: “Fist bumping may be one small way of avoiding getting nasty germs on your hands but there are lots of others that more than make up for it.”
He added: “E.coli bacteria are found in the gut and so if someone has these bugs on their hands then basically their skin is covered in poo.”
Hoffman said if we washed our hands thoroughly and consistently after going to the toilet then we could substantially reduce the spread of harmful bugs and reduce illness.
This is a tough one for us South Africans as we should really try to merge the cultural aspect of it, while keeping healthy. But I’m definitely sure it is doable.
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