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Home > Blog > Keep Your Hands to Yourself
Out of Our Minds
Thursday, November 04, 2004 6:24 PM
Keep Your Hands to Yourself
Anita Sharpe on Health & Wellness

handshake.jpgWith flu season approaching, a growing number of people, myself included, are getting kind of Howard Hughes-like when it comes to shaking hands.

One health writer suggests nodding at people you are introduced to and not offering your hand. I tried that once, but the person I was greeting failed to take the hint. Another writer suggests carrying hand-wipes with you and cleaning your hands after each shake; somehow, that seems to negate the friendly gesture.

With the party season approaching, it will be fun to watch the creative ways people get around shaking hands. Even in the best of times, finger food and 50 hand shakes are an unappetizing mix.


6 comments

Bob Watkins - 11/7/2004 2:11:04 PM
I think keeping your own immune system tuned up should avoid most of the fear of shaking hands.

A while back, a local radio show ( www.bobrivers.com ) was ruminating on who tends to get colds each winter and who doesn't. They came up with a 3-point plan for avoiding colds:

1. Take your vitamins daily.
2. Avoid sugar.
3. Exercise moderately 3/week.

To which I'd add a fourth:

4. Wash your own hands regularly.
Fran - 11/6/2004 10:45:07 PM
My husband got a flu shot, my son just slipped in under the age wire and qualified for a flu shot too. That leaves me the vulnerable one in the house. I'm trying to train myself not to get my hands anywhere near my face after handshaking or just being out in public and am doing enough hand washing to qualify for the Lady Macbeth award.
I've tried to divert a handshake here or there, but have never been successful, either. I think it's going to take a mini-epidemic to help retrain people. How about going the Asian route and instituting a little mini-bow to replace thrusting our hands out to each other?
Robbe Richman - 11/6/2004 12:14:53 PM
I think it's not so much about the paranoia, as it is living a healthly lifestyle and I also find that taking the right supplements during the changing seasons helps. These ones have kept me healthy:

http://vitanetonline.com/description/PF0174/vitamins/Yin-Chiao-Classic(tm)/

And Thieves oil
http://www.youngliving.us/
Robert - 11/6/2004 9:41:42 AM
Interesting that someone mentioned Bill Clinton. In a 9/13 New Yorker piece on Al Gore 'four years later' David Remnick indeed refers to a moment when Tipper uses hand cleanser after a public event, before sharing it with her husband, citing the number of hands they'd been shaking. Being The New Yorker, they had space to further illustrate the color of the cleanser (amber), and that Tipper was kind enough to offer some to the writer as well (not clear if he accepted). At the time I thought it was an odd reference, though the point, I think, was to illustrate the folksy, pedestrian 'just like you and me' lifestyle the almost President now follows (i.e., he sits in the front seat of cars!). Anyway I suspect there is some political analyst out there who sees symbolism in it, that a public servant whose first act after a hanging with the people is to reach for the Handiwipes probably is going to hit a ceiling in his career sooner or later.

Ok, I realize I just turned light banter into yet more overly introspective political analysis, time to turn off C-Span and get a life already ....

Anyway, shoulder pats seem kind of friendly, maybe we should encourage them ... risking, of course, that we would then overly obsess about the fitness of our shoulder muscles, invent endless diets and exercises and surgical routines to improve the shoulder, and judge people on their shoulder fitness. 'I don't know, I like Roger, but his shoulder seems overly bony to me.' Maybe the hand thing has its merits.
Paughnee - 11/5/2004 11:08:37 AM
I agree that using a wipe to clean your hand after shaking wouldn't go over too well (ever watched the show 'Monk'?). However, you can tuck one of those mini-size bottles of hand sanitizer in your pocket or bag and make use of it at the first discreet moment.

Personally, I've refrained from shaking hands because I was suffering from a cold and I told the other person why. They were very appreciative and totally understood.
Halley Suitt - 11/5/2004 5:47:14 AM
Anita = I totally agree. Maybe this has to do with having kids and watching as the weather grows cooler, they start bringing home all varieties of sicknesses from school, thanks to all the germy hands, shared lunches, swaped snacks and goodness knows what other contact they have with their buddies. Also, having worked in sales where you are required to shake a lot of hands every day -- I do think it really increases your risk of getting sick.

I have at times put a business card into my hand and given an eager hand-shaker the card instead as a way to fend off obviously sniffy, coughy people.

Or you can lead with, 'I'd love to shake your hand, but I'm getting over a cold and I don't want you to run the risk of catching it.'

Or there's the old, well-timed, theatrical sudden sneeze into a hankerchief when someone suddenly wants to shake hands. That should give them the hint.

I often wonder what dignitaries, politicos, candidates for President and the like do, and others who are really forced to do lots of hand shaking for their daily bread.

On CSPAN, I saw Clinton in New Mexico working the rope line on Kerry's behalf last week, touching 100's of people and thought, 'Good God, he's just out of the hospital and is at such risk if he gets ill ... '

Any other suggestions?

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