How should one behave in situations that require a handshake but are wearing a bandaid on their hand or one of their fingers?

Many people will find it unhygienic or at least unpleasant to touch a bandaid. Thus, when wearing a bandaid I feel obliged to spare other people from touching it and would likewise protect myself from letting too many people touch the bandaid.

My first instinct would be to offer the other hand instead, but I realise many people would consider this rude.

I live in Germany but would also be interested how this situation might be handled in non-western societies.

  • Is your goal to avoid handshakes when you have a band-aid on your hand, or to give others a polite warning that you have one? Has someone (or you) recently had an uncomfortable experience like this?
    – user8671
    Commented Jan 7, 2019 at 11:16
  • Kind of both. I actually cut myself recently, albeit on the left hand, and thus thought about the problem. Commented Jan 7, 2019 at 11:19

2 Answers 2


Just apologise and say your hand is very sore. This takes the concern about avoiding a band aid out of the equation, and makes it about helping you avoid pain, so no shaming about infection is going to occur.

I have seen people use the other hand when they have a bad injury, but this varies by culture.

  • I like this answer but I'd like to suggest an addendum: I've sometimes seen people make a "wave it off" motion with their right hand, while mention why they don't want to shake (sore hand, cold, etc). That makes it pretty obvious what's going on. Haven't ever encountered anyone offering me their left hand instead.
    – DaveG
    Commented Jan 7, 2019 at 19:35

From "Etiquette for Dummies":

If the person you meet has a mobility impairment, always shake the hand that is extended. [...] If you're offered the left hand, you can shake it with either the right or left hand. If shaking hands isn't an option, touch the person on the shoulder or upper arm as a sign of greeting and acknowledgment.

This is about American etiquette, though I've seen this in The Netherlands too.

Now a band-aid doesn't always have to come with a 'mobility impairment', but shaking hands with someone that has a wound can certainly hurt, depending on the location of the wound. Just offer your left hand, perhaps even quickly show the band-aid on your right hand, and excuse yourself with a quick apology mentioning that your right hand is sore right now, or that you'd rather keep your hand free from touch.

Just remember that people are curious creatures. Yes, offering a 'wrong' hand without explanation may be seen as rude, but if you can simultaneously explain your reason for doing so no one should take lasting offense.

  • 2
    Interesting addition to the left hand shake: you should rotate your outstretched arm so the ellbow points slightly upwards and the thumb points downwards. This makes it easier for people to shake your left hand with their right hand. (I've seen a person with a paralyzed right arm do this. If you have to offer your left hand, this works well)
    – Elmy
    Commented Jan 7, 2019 at 15:15

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