If you really want to avoid germs, you should stop doing this popular birthday tradition

Your friend's birthday is going well — you're all gathered around singing, a colorful cake has been presented — when suddenly, it happens: She's asked to make a wish.

Normally, you'd happily join in the collective tradition of asking her to blow out the candles. Maybe not after learning about a a new study that shows that the mere act of extinguishing those flickering lights multiplied the bacteria on the cake by 1,400%.

Perhaps the song should really go, "Happy bacteria to you."

For the study, published this summer in the Journal of Food Research, a group of food scientists prepared two test birthday "cakes" made of Styrofoam which they then spread with real icing (vanilla, in case you were wondering) and decorated with exactly 17 candles. Before having volunteers blow out the candles on both cakes, they had all of them smell and consume a piece of hot pizza — "to simulate a meal-dessert sequence." Afterwards, they compared the amount of bacteria present on each cake surface, and then repeated the whole exercise three times — because science.

They found that the cake that had its candles blown out had, on average, 1,400% more bacteria than the cake whose candles had not been blown out, and the range of those microbes was 100 times greater.

Related: Germs are right in your kitchen

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11 Sneaky Places Germs are Hiding in Your Kitchen
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11 Sneaky Places Germs are Hiding in Your Kitchen

The kitchen is one of the germiest places in the average home.

Refrigerator Drawers

The produce drawer in your refrigerator can be contaminated with salmonella, listeria, yeast and mold. To clean it, remove the drawer from the fridge and wash it in warm, soapy water.

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Kitchen Sink

It’s no secret; lots of germs are washed down the kitchen sink. Make sure the pathogens don’t linger by disinfecting it daily with a solution of bleach and water.

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Can Opener

The best way to ensure that salmonella, E.coli, yeast and mold aren’t growing on your can opener is to wash it in the dishwasher after each use. If you don’t have a dishwasher, hand-wash after each use but be sure to pay extra attention to the area around the blade.

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Rubber Spatula

Check to see if your spatula can be disassembled. If so, remove the handle and wash both pieces in the dishwasher or by hand to remove any E.coli, yeast or mold that may be present. If the spatula cannot be disassembled, be sure to pay special attention to the area where the two pieces join when washing.

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Salt and Pepper Shakers

Because they’re handled so frequently, salt and pepper shakers harbor a tremendous amount of germs. The best way to ensure that your salt and pepper shakers are clean is to periodically wipe them down with disinfecting wipes.

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Knife Block

Periodically clean your knife block to prevent yeast and mold from thriving. Remove the knives, turn the knife block over to remove any loose debris, and then clean the knife block in hot soapy water using a small brush in each of the slots.

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Rubber-Seal Containers

Reusable containers with a rubber seal can harbor salmonella, yeast, and mold. If the rubber seal is removable, remove it before machine or hand washing. If it’s not, be sure to pay special attention to the area around the seal when hand washing.

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Coffee Reservoir

Mold, mildew and bacteria can all be hiding in the reservoir of your coffee maker. Clean your coffee maker according to the manufacturers’ instructions frequently; many also recommend using vinegar.

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Blender

The blender is another kitchen gadget that needs to be fully disassembled before washing. Be sure to remove the blade and seal from the jar and base before washing to prevent salmonella, E. coli, yeast and mold from thriving. Be sure to dry each piece thoroughly before reassembling.

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Sponges, Rags, and Towels

Your dish sponge, rag and towels all create an ideal environment for pathogens. Be sure to wash and change your rags and towels frequently and microwave your dish sponge for a few seconds after each use to help disinfect and dry it.

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Rubber Seal on Your Refrigerator Door

Much like the rubber seal on food storage containers, the seal around the door of your refrigerator or freezer can harbor harmful bacteria. Remember to clean it periodically with soapy water and then dry it thoroughly with a clean towel.

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"I personally will be aware of the health status of the blower and won't blow out candles if I'm sick," Paul Dawson, the leading author of the study and a professor of food science at Clemson University, told Business Insider.

Still, it's important to keep in mind that in many cases, especially if everyone present is healthy, all those extra germs could be harmless. By and large, we're surrounded by germs — and plenty of studies suggest that's a good thing; it helps protect our immune systems from truly harmful pathogens like those that can cause disease. But if your birthday boy or girl is sick, you might want to reconsider tucking into that cake.

There's plenty of research to suggest that the droplets you sneeze, breathe, or blow out are large enough — and can travel fast and far enough — to spread the bacteria and viruses that cause strep throat and the flu, among others.

So the next time you're at a birthday party, be aware of others' health. If someone seems sick, it might be worth skipping out on the cake, or getting birthday cupcakes instead.

Related: Hilarious apology cakes

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Apology Cakes
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Apology Cakes
Photo Credit: Imgur
Maybe the next top-selling card? #cakewrecks
Omg #cakefails #cakewrecks
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How I chose to apologise 💝 @darci_louise #mybad #sorrycake 🍰🎂
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In case anybody was wondering...I was the fajita culprit. But I think I fixed it. #ApologyCake
Cannot believe rach has just had to make this cake #disbelief #apologycake #findingthiswaytoofunny
Photo Credit: Honest Cakes
Photo Credit: Reddit
Photo Credit: Vulgar Cakes
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Photo Credit: Vulgar Cakes
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