Life Wellbeing Doctors call for handshake ban due to hygiene concerns

Doctors call for handshake ban due to hygiene concerns

barack obama
Donald Trump and Barack Obama made nice for the cameras in 2017. Now the gloves are off. Photo: Getty
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Former US president Barack Obama likes to use them, and they have been shown to spread far fewer germs than the traditional handshake, but could a fist-bump greeting ever become the accepted norm?

In 2014, two researchers from Aberystwyth University in Wales compared the quantity of bacteria transferred by handshaking, high-fiving and fist bumping.

They found that handshaking transferred 10 times more bacteria than fist bumping.

Now doctors in the US and Britain are considering handshake bans in a bid to reduce hospital infections, some of which are resistant to antibiotics.

But Tony Bartone, a GP and federal vice-president of the Australian Medical Association, said handshaking in the general community was fairly safe, as long as the people involved regularly washed their hands.

“I don’t think we have to start to completely change our normal everyday behaviour, it’s just that we need to understand what happens next and what we need to do following a handshake,” Dr Bartone told ABC Radio Perth.

“I’m a doctor, so I’m examining people, and I would always wash my hands before and after seeing a patient.

“It makes common sense, in a workplace, to wash your hands before eating. Wash your hands after you use the toilet.

“This reinforces just how prevalent microorganisms are; we just really need to be a bit more wise, and that is what these studies are alluding to.”

Handshakes have been banned in two neonatal intensive care units in Los Angeles in a bid to minimise hospital-acquired infections.

Mass handshaking was also blamed by public health authorities for an outbreak of norovirus following a political rally in Nebraska.

Should we stop touching things as well?

And while the occasional fist bump is good enough for the likes of Mr Obama, listeners to ABC Radio Perth were less than convinced.

“Are we to stop touching things in the world as well? Because I’m pretty sure people push doors open, handle objects that other people will touch right behind them, and don’t even get me started on escalators,” Mark said.

“I really think that is ridiculous and people could just learn to wash their hands. You learn nothing from a fist bump and so much from a handshake,” Helen said.

“If you don’t get bugs, how on Earth do you get immunity from germs?” Bob said.

But a few listeners were wary of the handshake.

“I don’t want to shake hands whilst in church with people who are coughing into their hands, because the next thing I do is receive communion which is placed into my hand,” Katherine said.

“I was brought up being told that only a woman offers her hand to be shaken,” Marg said.

“I still am rather disconcerted to have a man extend his hand.”


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