A birthday cake joint-effort circa my childhood. Photo courtesy of Kelsey’s Mom

Editor’s note: A recent experiment at Clemson University examined the potential spread of bacteria from people blowing out candles on birthday cakes.

We all look forward to that one day a year when family and friends gather around in song to watch you blow out the candles on your birthday cake. In my house, it wasn’t just once a year. Nope, it didn’t matter if it was your special day, it was often a group effort, whether you wanted the help or not.

Growing up as one of four children, my parents had their hands, and calendars, full year round. There were always exciting events, holidays, and of course, birthdays to celebrate. September, October, February, March, June, and July all called for cake and candles in our house. Little did I know that sharing the blow of candles, also meant sharing the blow of bacteria.

According to new research from Clemson University, blowing out candles increases bacteria on a cake icing by a whopping 1,400%. Yes, over one-thousand, a pretty high blow to many.

Paul Dawson is a known food myth buster and professor at Clemson University. His experiments fought the infamous 5-second rule and discussed the dangers of double-dipping. Most recently, he led a team of students in the birthday cake bacteria discovery.

Rest assured, the spread oral bacteria or respiratory droplets, does not actually mean that anyone who eats the cake is in any serious trouble. That is, unless you didn’t wait for your sister, ‘the birthday girl’, to take the first bite… But in all seriousness, if you’re sick you s think twice about blowing out your candles, and opting for a personal cake, cupcake, or slice instead.

The moral of the study? Think twice if you or your loved one is sick on their special day, and maybe don’t think too long about it if they’re not! The next time you share cake, share Clemson’s mind-blowing, candle-blowing discovery.


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