Intended for healthcare professionals

Rapid response to:


Public perceptions, anxiety, and behaviour change in relation to the swine flu outbreak: cross sectional telephone survey

BMJ 2009; 339 doi: (Published 02 July 2009) Cite this as: BMJ 2009;339:b2651

Rapid Response:

Namaste or handshake: Time to ponder

Handshake is commonly used on daily basis to greet other people in different circumstances and appears to convey trust, balance and equality. At times, a soft embrace or hug is used to greet people, especially women. In both circumstances, in addition to the physical contact the two individuals greeting each other are in close proximity. However, in the current era of emerging pathogens at risk for causing epidemics, it is time to re-think this form of greeting or salutation to avoid unnecessary physical contact and proximity among people. This is in addition to following general principles of meticulous washing and drying of hands to prevent the spread of infection.

In order to avoid unnecessary physical contact and close proximity it is time to consider other forms of salutation when greeting individuals without creating awkward or negative feelings between two people who are greeting each other. Namaste or Namaskar is used in Indian subcontinent for centuries to greet people, where the individuals (meeting or departing) while staying at a distance from each other, in addition to saying “Namaste” makes a slight bow made with hands pressed together, palms touching and fingers pointed upwards in front of the chest. It expresses respect for the other individual(s) and as all parties are doing the same brings equality. This is one example but other forms of greetings where close physical contact is avoided without causing insult or negative feelings among the parties involved, should be considered, as an additional measure to prevent the spread of infection.

Competing interests:
None declared

Competing interests: No competing interests

13 July 2009
Malvinder S. Parmar
Associate Professor, Northern Ontario School of Medicine
Timmins & District Hospital, Timmins, ON, Canada P4N 8P2