Fact: Fist Bumps Are 90% Less Gross Compared To Handshakes

Fist bumping isn't only cooler, it's a lot more hygienic too. Here's why.

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Fist bumping is not only a whole lot cooler than handshakes, they're 10 times more hygienic too, researches say. We've got the facts to back this up:

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1. Your hands are a theme park of bacteria. You sneeze into your hands, you touch door knobs, hand rails, toilet seats, they've been all over.

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"Hand-to-hand contact is a known way of spreading germs," said Dr. Len Horovitz, a pulmonary specialist at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City. "The issue is that unwashed hands carry germs, and the recipient touches their face and introduces germs into the body. Hand bumping may not be better insurance against spreading infection," he added.

Germs from unwashed hands can get into foods and drinks while people prepare or consume them. Germs can multiply in some types of foods or drinks, under certain conditions, and make people sick.

2. So much infection transmits through handshakes that some people from the American Medical Association wanted handshaking banned from hospitals

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Last month, authors of an article in The Journal of the American Medical Association raised eyebrows by suggesting that handshaking be banned in hospitals. Despite the daily efforts of hospital infection control teams, hospital workers only get hand cleansing right 40% of the time.

In an attempt to avoid contracting or spreading infection, many individuals have made their own efforts to avoid shaking hands in various settings but, in doing so, may face social, political, and even financial risks.

3. British researchers found that fist bumps spread 90% less bacteria compared to handshakes

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To test what type of greeting might spread the most germs from one hand to another, one researcher would dip a gloved hand into a container brimming with a fairly harmless strain of E. coli bacteria. That researcher would then shake, fist bump or high-five the gloved, but clean, hand of another researcher. The glove that had been germ-free to start with was then tested for levels of E. coli bacteria.

The handshake turned out to be the dirtiest exchange of all, spreading twice as many germs as a high-five and about 10 times as many germs as a fist bump, the investigators found. Using paint in a second round of tests, the researchers found that more of each person's hand touched the other person's hand in a handshake, and that they tended to last longer. They theorized that those two facts might explain why handshakes are the least sanitary exchange.

4. No matter how elaborate your fist bump choreography, the good thing is that they don't linger like handshakes and you touch less surface area

Dr. Whitworth hypothesized that fist-bumps are more hygienic mostly because they minimize the surface area of hand-to-hand contact, and they’re usually quicker than handshakes.

5. If Malaysians were to fist bump more, we could reduce the spread of infectious diseases say scientists

“People rarely think about the health implications of shaking hands,” Dr. Dave Whitworth, of Aberystwyth University in Wales, said in a statement. “If the general public could be encouraged to fist-bump, there is genuine potential to reduce the spread of infectious diseases.”

Feces (poop) from people or animals is an important source of germs like Salmonella, E. coli O157, and norovirus that cause diarrhoea, and it can spread some respiratory infections like adenovirus and hand-foot-mouth disease. These kinds of germs can get onto hands after people use the toilet or change a diaper, but also in less obvious ways, like after handling raw meats that have invisible amounts of animal poop on them.

Fist bumps became popular in 2008 after Michelle Obama fist-bumped her husband in an endearing, public show of support before his speech

Michelle Obama gives her husband, Democratic presidential candidate US Senator Barack Obama, a fist-bump as a sign of support before he speaks to supporters at the Xcel Center

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Judging by the media hysteria at the time, the fist bump dates back only as far as 2008, when Michelle Obama nudged her husband, Barack, during a presidential campaign speech in Minnesota. Regardless, the pound boosted the Obamas' popularity among voters of all colours; the Washington Post called it "the fist bump heard 'round the world'".

They (American academics Samy Alim and Geneva Smitherman) first define the pound as "a gesture of solidarity and comradeship… also used in a celebratory sense and sometimes as a nuanced greeting among intimates and/or those with a shared social history". They trace that history in mainstream black culture to the Sixties, when African-American soldiers fighting in Vietnam used the dap, a variation on the pound in which the fists meet vertically, one above the other.

Think you're safe and hygienic enough to ward off germs? That's what we thought too, until we found more facts:

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