Does blowing out birthday candles really spread germs?

If you’re worried that blowing out candles is a great way to spread germs, don’t cancel the party just yet.

Researchers behind a widely-shared study say you would probably have to blow out hundreds of thousands of candles before getting sick. And think of all the cake you will have enjoyed until then.

The study, in the Journal of Food Research, comes from researchers at Clemson University, in South Carolina.

They wanted to find out how much bacteria candle-blowing leaves behind, so they decorated foam “cakes” wrapped in foil with layers of icing.

They began by eating some pizza, to simulate a typical birthday party and to get their saliva going, study co-author Paul Dawson explained to the Atlantic.

They then blew out candles on some of the cakes.

After taking icing samples from the different cakes, the researchers found that those cakes that had the candles blown out had 1,400 per cent more bacteria on their icing than the others.

But Dawson told The Atlantic he’s personally not too bothered by the findings.

“It’s not a big health concern in my perspective,” he said. “In reality, if you did this 100,000 times, then the chance of getting sick would probably be very minimal.”

He said everyone’s mouths are teeming with bacteria, and most of those bacteria are not harmful.

If blowing out candles were really a vector for spreading disease, we likely would have noticed by now.

Nevertheless, Dawson says if he knew that a candle-blower at a party were clearly sick, he might skip the cake.

The ice cream on the side is always the best part anyway.

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Photo credit: jason cox/

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