Study: Fist Bumps Are Cleaner Than Handshakes, High-Fives

Life & Love | Gerren Keith Gaynor | 07/28/2014 | 11:30 AM EDT

Researchers discover familiar knocking of knuckles spreads less bacteria

It looks like the Obama’s were on to something…

The fist bump, a hand gesture made famous by Barack Obama and Michelle Obama during the president’s 2008 Democratic presidential nominee win, is found to spread less germs.


Researchers report that the familiar knocking of knuckles spreads only one-twentieth the amount of bacteria that a handshake does; better than a high-five, which still passes along less than half the amount as a handshake.

Hand hygiene is no novelty in the world of medicine, however, researchers realized that most research focused on hands being exposed to germs from touching doorknobs and other surfaces, but that very few studies had looked at handshakes.

Considering the bacterial risks, fist bumps seem to be the best and wisest form of greeting, especially during cold and flu season, said the study’s researcher David Whitworth.

"And there are alternatives to handshakes. You see them on [television] all the time - the fist bump and high-five and all that," Whitworth said.

He and a student, Sara Mela, shook hands, fist-bumped and high-fived each other dozens of times for the research. One wore a glove covered in bacteria, while the other had a clean sterilized glove. After each greeting, they measured how much bacteria had been transferred, according to the Associated Press.

For those wondering what makes the fist bump more sanitary, it's the smaller amount of surface area in contact between the two hands, an analysis suggests. The researchers practiced runs with paint to measure how much surface area each form of greeting involved.


Whitworth said he hopes the norm changes. "In a hospital, you really don't want people to shake hands. It's an unnecessary risk," he said.

(Photo: Scott Olson/Getty Images)

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