COVID-19: Alternatives to Handshakes to Avoid Swapping Germs

Looking for ways to stop the spread of infection? While washing your hands thoroughly and consistently is absolutely important, one of the easiest things you can do to avoid germ spread is to stop making unnecessary physical contact with other people. No handshakes. No high fives. During this time of caution, we’re sure your friends, family and acquaintances will understand.

If you’re not sure how to greet someone without the habitual handshake, we have some alternative ways to say hello. These options could come in handy regardless of illness, be it the flu, COVID-19 or just the common cold.


Dr. Michael Chang, infectious disease specialist with Memorial Hermann-Texas Medical Center and UTHealth, said to simply greet someone with, “a friendly wave and a warm smile.” While waves are typically reserved for someone who might be far away, there’s no reason it wouldn’t work in this situation.


A nice nod in someone’s direction can provide a good introduction. If you don’t know what to do with your hands, one recommendation is to place your hand over your heart when giving a nod.

Tip of the Hat

The only caveat for this one is that it requires you to be wearing a hat. If you find yourself in this position, a tip of the hat can serve as a respectable introduction.

Air Five

Do you and your best buds constantly give each other high fives whenever something neat happens? For the time being, replace your high five with an air five. We know it doesn’t have the same satisfaction as hearing the clap of a perfectly placed high five, but put your health first. If you’ve moved on from the high five to the fist bump, an air fist bump is also appropriate.

Elbow Bump

Bumping elbows is one of the few forms of physical contact with very little risk, and it has been previously endorsed by the World Health Organization during previous outbreaks. This trend caught on during the avian flu scare, and was used again during fear of the swine flu, Ebola outbreak, and now COVID-19.


Many foreign countries have adopted use what’s now known as the “footshake,” where two people tap their feet in place of shaking hands.

The bottom line is that it’s important to avoid germs when you can. While some of these greetings might make you feel a bit silly, you might end up appreciating it in the future.

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  1. I haven’t tried it yet but the footshake has to be my favorite. It is definitely hard to smile at someone when you are wearing a mask….

  2. Blow a kiss to someone that’s a really close friend or you haven’t seen in a while and usually give them a hug

  3. These are all great alternatives! The elbow bump is my favorite what’s yours?

  4. May also greet using the Namaste gesture: Bringing hands together while facing and looking at the person you are greeting.

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Ali Vise