Feature Archive

Presidential Advice: Shake Off a Cold

Experts say shaking hands can transmit germs. Here's how we -- and our presidential candidates -- can stay healthy and friendly.

By Colette Bouchez
WebMD Feature

Reviewed By Brunilda Nazario

According to legend, lore, and some fact, President Theodore Roosevelt may well have been the downright friendliest U.S. president we've ever had. One reason: On New Year's Day 1907, he set what was then -- and may still be -- the world record for the number of handshakes in a single day -- 8,150 to be exact.

According to those following the presidential campaigns of George W. Bush and John Kerry, there could soon be a new world record: Both men, it seems, are extremely fond of this traditional political "vote for me" greeting.

The problem however -- in Roosevelt's day as well as now -- is that handshaking isn't exactly the healthiest way to win an election. Indeed, if experts are right, as we cruise head-on into cold and respiratory virus season, both Kerry and Bush could end up spending Election Day home in bed with the sniffles -- or worse -- as a result of those pre-election handshakes.

"Eighty percent of all infectious diseases are transmitted by contact both direct and indirect -- direct such as kissing, indirect such as shaking someone's hand," says Philip M. Tierno Jr., PhD, director of clinical microbiology and immunology at New York University Medical Center.