When you meet up with a colleague or friend, greetings typically involve some form of physical contact. Be it a handshake, high-five or good ol’ fashioned hug, all of them can be pretty dangerous during flu season.
That doesn’t mean you need to avoid touching all together. Instead, NPR suggests The Liberian Elbow Exchange, an elbow bump which gets it name from Liberians avoiding shaking hands during an Ebola outbreak.
It’s pretty solid advice. The station spoke to one doctor that claims that 80 per cent of all cold, flu and super respiratory infections as well as diarrhoeal illness are passed along to others by their hands.
Yes, that could mean you were touching something (such as a check-in terminal at the airport) that a sick person has, but it could also be transmitted during your average run-of-the-mill high-five. Rather than risk it, swap your greeting for an elbow bump instead.
After a particularly rough battle with the flu earlier this year, I've gotten pretty obsessive about watching what I touch in public places. I also carry around antibacterial wipes whenever I fly (a habit I've had for years), and immediately wipe down my tray table, seatbelt, and armrest as soon as I take my seat on a plane. As it turns out, I should probably be paying more attention to what I'm touching in the actual airport before I board.Read more
Clearly this won’t work for every situation. You aren’t going to elbow bump a high-profile client at a meeting or your mum when you come over for dinner. In those situations, NPR suggests trying to avoid touching your face after you make that hand-to-hand contact and to wash your hands as soon as possible.
When you do go for that hand wash, make sure you’re doing it right. To kill all the germs on your hands you need to scrub with soap for 15-20 seconds – that’s a lot less than most of us lather up.
And bacteria tend to congregate on the palm, so the less palm-to-palm contact the better. I see fist bumps making a comeback in my personal life over the next few months.