People Prefer Not to Shake Hands During Cold and Flu Season

Fist bumps and hand sanitizer are in, handshakes are out

Howie Mandel may be ahead of the curve when it comes to greeting people. The Deal or No Deal star suffers from obsessive-compulsive disorder, an anxiety condition that for him has resulted in a fear of germs. He hates touching people, so he has developed a workaround that enables him to interact with contestants on the show -- he greets people with fist bumps.

While we won’t credit Mandel for single-fistedly popularizing the bump, a new survey shows he’s not the only one using knuckle-bumping to avoid germs. According to a recent survey by Purell, Americans are opting out of the classic handshake for reasons that inlcude trying to avoid contamination during cold and flu season.

According to the poll, 15 percent of Americans have chosen to bump fists instead of shake hands to keep germs at bay. And not everyone who politely extends a hand is happy about it. In particular, people on the East Coast are more wary of bugs than those on the West Coast. Fifty percent of East Coast adults have hesitated to give a handshake due to fear of germs, while only 35 percent on the West Coast had the same reluctance.

It may come as no surprise, then, that 26 percent of Americans identify themselves as germaphobes. What does raise an eyebrow, though, is the fact that younger generations are more freaked out by microorganisms than older adults. While 21 percent of Baby Boomers surveyed say they are afraid of germs, 42 percent of Millennials consider themselves germaphobes. Funny, considering the fact that people over 60 are much more susceptible to germs than people in their 20s.

Among the other tantalizing tidbits culled from the survey, 55 percent of Americans would rather touch a public toilet seat than shake a hand that’s been coughed or sneezed into. I can’t say I blame them, considering toilet seats have been shown to be cleaner than other germ hotspots , like bathroom doorknobs and office desktops. Happily for germaphobes and non-germaphobes alike, new public health initiatives are encouraging people to cough and sneeze into their elbow instead of their hands. We think it goes without saying that tissues and hankies are still acceptable receptacles for your mucus, should you prefer not to wipe your nose on your sleeve.

Other good news in the germ-fighting world: Hand-washing rates are better than ever, thanks in part to last year’s H1N1 flu scare. So should you have to go old school and shake someone’s hand, rest assured that they have likely washed their hands since they last went to the bathroom. Where those hands have been since then, though, is anyone’s guess. That’s probably why 61 percent of Americans surveyed said they’d be more willing to offer someone a handshake if they had a bottle of hand sanitizer on them. After all, nothing says “nice to meet you” like a post-handshake dollop of sanitizer.

Unless someone looks like they’re on death’s door, I’ve never thought twice about shaking a person’s hand. While I definitely don’t want to catch a cold or flu virus, I am not that concerned about other types of microorganisms that I may be coming into contact with. Call me dirty, but I believe there is such a thing as being too hygienic for our own good. Our immune system has to be exposed to germs if it’s going to develop antibodies to fight them off. So while I do carry hand sanitizer with me, I’m not about to spray it on each time I shake a person’s hand or touch a doorknob. The proof that my personal hygiene regimen is working well for me: I haven’t been sick in over two years.

How do you keep from getting sick during cold and flu season? Chime in below!

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