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Homeland Security

Fighting the flu with fist bumps

Oct 8, 2009

By Cheryl Rodewig, The Bayonet

FORT BENNING, GA - Let's talk about the importance of hygiene. While the mainstays of deodorant and regular bathing are still encouraged, I'm talking about more than just body odor. With concerns about H1N1 and germs in general wreaking havoc on our immune systems, we can't be too careful.

Use antibacterial soap. If you're coughing, cover your mouth. If you're sneezing, cover again. Conventional wisdom is to use your hand. Others suggest coughing or sneezing into your sleeve or elbow. I'll go further and recommend covering your cough with at least four walls - preferably your house or other place of residence - to keep your healthy co-workers from the risk of infection. Even the regular flu isn't nice to share.

If you think you can come to work and keep the ick to yourself, realize those particles of noxious snot can travel up to 100 miles an hour. A single sneeze can send 5,000 droplets and 10,000 bacteria 12 feet from your nose, according to www.sneezing-specifics.info - yes, there's a Web site for everything.

But sneezing and coughing, which can also, incidentally, involve liquid particles, aren't the only media for germs. Direct contact can do the trick, too. Institute whatever rule you wish in your own home. At my house, we're considering replacing hugs with head pats. It still says "I love you" but in a "keep-your-diseases-to-yourself" kind of way.

However, for the workplace, the most common form of spreading germs through contact is via handshake. A handshake usually signals agreement or acquaintance, or it can function as a professional way to say hello or goodbye. In ancient times, it meant you weren't concealing a weapon in your hand.

But since we're now almost a decade into the 21st century, I think it's time for a change, time to catch up with the hygiene-conscious modern era.

I propose the widespread introduction of the fist bump. After hearing a co-worker casually suggest phasing out handshakes in favor of fist bumps, I realized this was a valid suggestion. According to preliminary studies based on the relative gross factor I felt when shaking hands and bumping knuckles with various people, I theorize that fist bumps could cut down on 55 percent of germs transferred through handshakes.

Most of the germs get on the inside of our hands where we hold things, cough, eat, etc., leaving the knuckles relatively clean. The fist bump is also briefer than a typical handshake, allowing less time for a single-celled organism to hop from a questionably washed hand to yours.

If you want to start fist bumping, I suggest rehearsing your technique. If possible, find a cool person to practice with. Cool people have the innate ability to fist bump with the right level of jocosity and intimidation.

A few other tips to keep in mind: most importantly, try to look casual. Make eye contact while you aim your hand in the direction of the other person's hand. If you don't make contact, prepare to play it off like you meant to do it that way. Also important - don't punch. Although you're making a fist, remember: this is a friendly gesture and not an assault.

You'll need to decide on your own style. A proper fist bump can be delivered vertically, like you're holding a coffee mug, or horizontally, like you're holding a handle bar. I hear it's all in the wrist. You'll also want to decide which hand to use. According to my research, either the left or right hand is appropriate but never both at the same time.

Lastly, watch out for pointy rings. A high-velocity fist bump combined with either expensive or particularly cheap jewels can lead to some pretty nasty cuts.

If you need any more help, contact your nearest cool person.

And remember, waving, bowing and thumbs-up signs require no contact at all.

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