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October 15, 2008


Frank McGahon

I hereby apologise for shaking your hand a few years back!

It is unfortunate that shaking hands has become such a widespread custom as it is, to put it mildly, socially awkward to refuse a proffered hand. I would be pessimistic about the prospects of developing a social stigma towards handshaking but then it didn't take too long for the (welcome) now common stigma towards smoking to develop and perhaps more reports like this from the BBC might have a role. It is a pity that there wasn't an explicit mention of handshaking in it though.


"I hereby apologise for shaking your hand a few years back!"

Ach, don't worry about it; I wouldn't have cared about the implications of handshaking at the time, to be honest. It took the SARS alert for me to start looking into the issue on PubMed, and finding out just how effective a means of transferring germs handshaking and other forms of physical contact can be: for instance, it appears that most cases of cold and flu are actually caught through first getting the viruses on their hands, and then transferring them to their eyes and nasal areas.

As for the present day, dream as I might that a friendly wave will one day become the norm, I recognize that I won't always be able to get around shaking a proffered hand, so instead I've taken to carrying around with me hand sanitizer I can use in case I'm unable to have quick access to a place to wash (and I make sure not to touch my face until I do get such a chance, sanitizer notwithstanding). Some people will say that this is "OCD" behavior on my part and whatnot, but I find that since taking up my present hand cleaning routine I'm losing far fewer days to illness than I used to.

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