Lizzy DeningHealth

How singing Happy Birthday could save you from ‘flu!

Lizzy DeningHealth
How singing Happy Birthday could save you from ‘flu!

It sounds strange, but if you want to avoid colds, flu and stomach bugs this winter, it’s time to start singing ‘Happy Birthday’.

No, we’re not having a funny turn – scientists from the Royal Pharmaceutical Society have said that singing the birthday ditty twice while you wash your hands is a good way of timing yourself.

Washing for 20 seconds is the only sure way of getting rid of viruses and bacteria that can cause colds, infections, flu and tummy upsets – and the song, when sung twice, is a good way to measure the time. Although it may make you look a little eccentric in public loos!

The Society is calling for all of us to exercise better hygiene in the bathroom to reduce our dependence of antibiotics, which are becoming less effective as bugs become more resistant to them.


Its poll found that 84 per cent of people weren’t washing their hands for long enough – a shame when you consider that a third of diarrhoea cases and 16 per cent of respiratory infections can be prevented with that simple measure.

A whopping 65 per cent don’t always wash their hands before eating, and half don’t wash them after touching their pets.

Even more worryingly, 32 per cent don’t before preparing food and a yucky 21 per cent don’t always wash after using the toilet.

According to the Society, sore throats last a week on average, while ear infections last eight days, colds for a fortnight and coughs for 21 days – just think how much healthier we’d be if we just remembered the Happy Birthday rule!

The NHS has issued guidelines about a thorough hand-washing technique.