When Clemson recently released a study that found that blowing out candles on a birthday cake resulted in 1,400 percent more bacteria spread over the surface of the cake, some people started to freak out a little bit.

The blowing out of birthday candles on the cake is a classic tradition, but no one ever stopped to think about the sanitary nature of it. Thankfully, Philip M. Tierno, Jr., PhD, professor of microbiology and pathology at NYU says we shouldn’t throw those out just yet.

While it may be true that some germs are spread from blowing out candles, most people’s immune systems are actually strong enough to fight them off. This might not be the case for smaller children and older people, so if someone’s immune system isn’t up to par, it might be wise to just pass on the cake.

Professor Tierno makes a good point when he says, “Activities that involve multiple people, like [interacting with an] ATM machine, increases risk of infection far more than one person blowing out candles.”

However, he does suggest to replace the entire cake with a personal cupcake and a few candles if the birthday boy/girl finds themselves sick on the day of the party. The rest of the guests can enjoy a cake that hasn’t been covered in obviously sick germs while the tradition of singing “Happy Birthday” and blowing out candles still isn’t lost.

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