Birthday parties, job interviews and first meetings have one thing in common: you give each other a hand. At least, before Covid rocked the world. And maybe it’s better that we’ve stopped. Shaking hands is very dirty.
People would be doing their own and other people’s health a great favour if they didn’t keep passing on thousands of bacteria and viruses to each other through their hands.
A handshake is dirtier than a boxing
Since 2014 we know that the ‘boxing’ and the ‘high five’ are healthier alternatives to the handshake. British researchers compared the greetings. The results (pdf) were obvious: many more bacteria were passed on during a handshake. It should be noted that these are not necessarily pathogenic organisms.
many more bacteria were passed on during a handshake
A hand is ‘inhabited’ by millions of bacteria, thousands of which change hands with each handshake. Of course, the longer the handshake, the more they jump over. And the more hands you shake, the more dangerous. With hindsight, the Pope had estimated this very well when he no longer wanted people to kiss his ring.
Passing viruses through the hands
In addition to bacteria, there are also viruses on your hands, which no one can have missed since the outbreak of the Covid virus. These viruses occur, for example, because you are picking your nose in an unguarded moment, or fishing for a seed between your teeth. The virus is found in droplets of snot and mucus. If you give someone a hand, you can quickly spread such a virus.
The person you’ve shaken hands with is going to pick his nose once in a while. Research at the University of New South Wales (Australia) showed that observed students had their hands on their faces more than twenty times an hour. In almost half of the cases, they were touching places on their faces where mucous membranes are present, such as the mouth, nose, and eyes.
Other bacteria live on your left and right hand
Back to the bacteria. Women have a greater diversity of bacteria on their hands, according to American research in 2008. This is probably because men’s hands have a higher acidity. There are also differences in the production of oils and sweat between men and women. Hormone production, skin thickness and the use of skin care products can also play a role. There is also a difference between the left and right hand. These parts are only part of the bacteria found, probably because we do different things with both hands.
Disinfecting soap is no better than ordinary
Can you do something yourself to prevent pathogens from being received and spread through your hands? Wash of course. That doesn’t even have to be done with disinfectant soap: the technique and duration of hand washing are more important. Using too hot water is not good. It damages the skin, allowing bacteria to enter. Washing your hands really makes a difference.