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Germaphobia: Will fist-bumping overtake handshaking?

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If your skin crawls at the thought of shaking hands, you're not alone. A study by Purell shows that more Americans are opting out of the skin-on-skin handshake for the more brief contact of the fist bump.

Whatever the reasons, fear of germs, fear of where that hand has been or what it has touched, fear of catching a disease, embarrassment over sweaty palms or the converse, overly dry hands, more and more Americans are shunning the traditional handshake in favor of the fist bump.

A study commissioned by Purell Instant Hand Sanitizer showed that varying degrees of germaphobia are at the root of opting for the fist bump.

In a gross if not repulsive revelation, 55 percent of those surveyed said they’d “rather touch a public toilet seat” than shake hands with someone who’s just coughed or sneezed into his hand.

Fifty-nine percent of Americans, approximately 59 million people, consider themselves to be germaphobes to some extent.

The handshake is an extension of the bygone tradition of soldiers to hail a stranger by raising his right hand to show it was weapon-free. Most children learn to shake hands from their parents, and approximately 75 percent of those parents believe children should learn how to shake hands before they enter kindergarten. Unfortunately, those parents never read Emily Post’s rules of etiquette and teach their boys that a man never shakes hands with a woman unless she extends her hand first.

The authors of the study speculated that the other 25 percent of parents who teach their kids about shaking hands are discouraging the action in favor of fist-to-fist contact.

The study also showed that there is a coastal influence to just how much people in different parts of the country react to handshaking. On the East Coast, 50 percent hesitate to shake hands for fear of germs. More laid-back West Coasters are less concerned; only 35 percent say they hesitate. Easterners lead the country in fist bumping with an average of three fist bumps a week. The national average is two. Southerners and their affinity for hospitality and warm welcomes, said they average eight handshakes a week, two more than the national average of six a week.

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