Can handshake-free zones limit the spread of disease?

Using lessons from smoking bans, health care facilities should consider instituting "handshake-free zones."

Can handshake-free zones limit the spread of disease?
Can handshake-free zones limit the spread of disease?

HealthDay News – Regulations restricting handshakes in a health care setting, along with more robust hand hygiene programs, may help limit the spread of disease, according to researchers.

“The handshake represents a deeply established social custom,” wrote Mark Sklansky, MD, and colleagues, in the Journal of the American Medical Association. “In recent years, however, there has been increasing recognition of the importance of hands as vectors for infection, leading to formal recommendations and policies regarding hand hygiene in hospitals and other health care facilities.”

The authors propose that lessons from smoking bans should be applied to handshakes. Given that warnings of smoking's harms and subsequent bans were able to cut a deeply entrenched habit, the same may be possible with handshakes. "Handshake-free zones" should be established along with educational programs and signage.

"Removing the handshake from the health care setting may ultimately become recognized as an important way to protect the health of patients and caregivers, rather than as a personal insult to whoever refuses another's hand," wrote the researchers.


They also suggested developing an alternative gesture for greetings and promoting it's adoption with media and educational programs.

References

  1. Sklansky, M et al. JAMA. 2014; doi:  doi:10.1001/jama.2014.4675.
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