'Handshake bans' proposed by medical professionals

By: Joe Nelson Email
By: Joe Nelson Email

EAU CLAIRE, Wis. (WEAU) - Medical facilities ban smoking, and guns, but what about handshakes? It's an idea some in the medical industry say would help prevent the spread of disease, even if it is socially uncomfortable.

Studies show the handshake is a big contributor to the spread of disease and some say banning it all together and having ‘handshake-free zones’ may be a better way to stay healthy.

Take a walk through Marshfield Clinic in Eau Claire or just about any medical facility and hand washing stations and signs promoting cleanliness are hard to miss.

“In the medical profession, I think also within the community, there's been an increased awareness in the importance of hand washing and the effectiveness of hand washing and decreasing disease,” Marshfield Clinic Physician Assistant Jeff Jackson said.

With many still not getting the message, some health care professionals are suggesting banning the handshake to decrease the spread of disease.

“If a hand is soiled, and I touched your hand, then both of us would go away with that contamination

Jackson said posting signs for handshake-free zones might be a stretch, but the benefits exist.

“It would have the risk of communicating a sense of unwelcome. It depends on the environment. In the healthcare environment, there's some reason to try to avoid that handshaking,” he said.

“I think it would be a good idea, I think it would lessen the sickness and improve people's health,” Katie Wood of Eau Claire said.

“I think it'd be really sad. It's a tradition sort of thing when a doctor shakes hands with you,” Marie Williams of Eau Claire said.

Known as a greeting or goodbye, respect or agreement, the handshake has a place in society, but the Journal of the American Medical Association offers alternatives like a bow or fist bump.

“I had a doctor elbow me, like put his elbow up. So no, I don't think it would offend me,” Wood said.

In many cases it's already begun.

“Increasingly I have people who put their hands up and say don't shake my hand because I'm so sick,” Jackson said.

“I sure would give permission when you come into the medical setting, if you don't want to shake someone's hand because of concern about infection, that that certainly is alright.”

The research noted how banning smoking led to healthier conditions, and said this could follow the same path.


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