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Doctors and nurses encouraged to swap handshakes for fist-bumps to reduce spread of bugs

Fist-bumping is more hygienic
Fist-bumping is more hygienic

DOCTORS and nurses are being urged to fist-bump patients rather than shake their hands to help stop the spread of deadly bugs.

Leading medics have said opting for the trendy greeting is far less likely to result in the transmission of dangerous bacteria and diseases.

They believe bugs such as norovirus, which affects a quarter of the population every year and is particularly prevalent in hospitals, could be combated by changing our traditional greeting.

Their calls come in the wake of studies that have shown shaking hands exposes three times as much skin to bacteria as bumping fists.

Internationally renowned plastic surgeon Dr Tom McClellan, who conducted experiments measuring the transmission of bacteria from both a fist-bump and a handshake, is a big proponent of fist-bumping.

He said: “Our study showed that diminished surface area, reduced contact time and use of the back of the hand all significantly reduce growth of bacteria.

“The same would hold true with viruses as well.

“Hospitals have made a significant effort to encourage better hand practices and many have adopted fist-bumps as a fun way to remind patients and families.”

He added: “Once you explain the concept patients actually have fun with it, although kids seem to be more receptive than older patients.”

Dr McClellan’s comments have also been supported by microbiologist Professor Hugh Pennington who said fist-bumping could be used as part of efforts to prevent infections.

Prof Pennington said: “It might make a difference.

“It’s one of many things you can do to cut down on the spread of bacteria.”

However, both experts agreed the most important measure in preventing the spread of bugs is good hand washing habits.

Many cruise ship captains have already switched to the fist-bump when greeting passengers in an attempt to improve hygiene.

The suggestion has also gained traction with politicians.

Earlier this year, SNP MP Alison Thewliss suggested fist-bumps may be a “slightly better alternative” to shaking hands.

She made the comment in relation to a debate in the Commons about hand washing in the NHS.

A study by scientists at Aberystwyth University found fist-bumping instead of shaking hands can reduce the spread of bacteria and viruses by up to 90%.

Dr Dave Whitworth, co-author of the report, said the best way to avoid spreading bugs was for health staff to limit contact with patients to what was absolutely necessary.

He said some people have even suggested health staff use the Indian “Namaste” greeting, which involves a slight bow with your own hands pressed together, or another form of bowing or nodding.

He said: “Although fist-bumping reduces the spread there’s still the transmission of infectious agents through that brief contact.”

However, Aggie Mackenzie, who was co-presenter on Channel 4’s How Clean Is Your House, said she couldn’t see fist-bumping catching on.

She said: “It would take decades and decades for that cultural change to actually take place.

“From a practical point of view, it’s not really going to happen is it?

“Shaking someone’s hand is such a part of our DNA.”

Poor hand hygiene is one of the main causes of the spread of superbugs such as C.diff, as well as infections including E.coli, flu and norovirus.

Experts say washing hands for 15 seconds is key to halting the spread of the bugs.


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