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Cold Hands Warm Heart: Does Hand Rubbing Really Make A Difference?

Author(s): Charlotte Katharine Gunner, Matthew Lee, Aaron Bhakta, Henry Casserly, Olivia Spence Keith Chapple

Objective: An abdominal examination by a physician with cold hands is perceived to produce patient discomfort. In an attempt to alleviate
this discomfort the clinician’s examining hands are traditionally rubbed together. However, it is unknown whether these brief ‘hand rub’
results in a clinically relevant change in hand temperature.
Design: Non-randomized trial
Setting: Multicenter study
Participants: 71 members of clinical staff
Main Outcome Measure: Palmar temperature change after vigorous hand rubbing for 2 and 10 seconds.
Results: The baseline median (IQR) palm temperature was 30.9 ± 1.4°C. Two seconds of hand rubbing increased the palmar temperature by
0.2°C to 31.1 ± 1.2°C (p=0.11; Mann-Whitney U test). Ten seconds of hand rubbing raised the palmar temperature by 0.4°C to 31.3 ± 1.3°C
(p=0.02; Mann-Whitney U test).
Conclusion: A brief but vigorous hand rub immediately prior to examination of a patient’s abdomen does not produce a clinically meaningful
rise in hand temperature.