Your mother probably warned you about eating food that's fallen on the floor, and drinking from weak water fountains and eating unofficially packaged candy on Halloween, but she probably never warned you about the germs from blowing out the candles on birthday cakes. That's because this trending concept is relatively new and totally unsuspecting. You know that tender moment when someone blows out their candles, their friends leaning in with excitement, taking pictures and breathing in the smokey after-scent — yeah, apparently that sweet moment is basically akin to Outbreak. One of our oldest celebrations is one of the yuckiest, scientists and germaphobes explain.
When you gather your breath and aim it at the lit candles, attempting to extinguish them all in one try, you're basically splatter-painting the top of the cake with all the bacteria in your mouth and serving it to all of your guests — the one kind of gift they're not interested in receiving. With that exhale comes saliva and germs, and a spreading force that can't be reckoned with. And if the birthday boy or girl is a child, the chances of them having a ton of infectious germs in their mouth is ever greater. Kids tend to be buffets of colds and stomach bugs and flus — what, it's true!
In a study carried out by Clemson University, it was found that birthday cakes had a significant increase in bacteria on the surface after the candles were blown out- confirming the suspicion that the tradition is pretty gross. Though, lead scientist Paul Dawson and his team are happy to report that generally speaking, blowing out the candles on a birthday cake is not a surefire way to infect your birthday guests, unless you're actually currently sick. An average healthy person's germs are not significant enough to make your guests ill, but if you're already infected with an overgrowth of bacteria or a virus, you have a pretty good chance of making everyone sick.
So for those of you that have winter birthdays and who are susceptible to colds, you might want to think about using your hands to fan the fire out or maybe just wrangle someone healthy and have them blow for you. And while watching a little kid take half a dozen attempts to blow out their birthday candles might be incredibly cute, it might be smarter to put their candles only on a cupcake or on their slice of cake so that no one else has to risk the germ frosting. Other candle extinguishing options might include: a small, handheld fan, a gust of wind, a candle snuffer, an old school folded paper fan.
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