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Originally published October 31 2009

How to get your doctor to sing Happy Birthday while he washes his hands (satire)

by Mike Adams, the Health Ranger, NaturalNews Editor

(NaturalNews) I recently saw a poster in a medical building that stopped me cold. It was about influenza, and it said the following: To avoid spreading germs, wash your hands for as long as it takes to sing Happy Birthday to yourself.

I did a double take. Really? Wash your hands while you sing Happy Birthday as a timing mechanism?

Apparently, this is an important bit of advice for teaching the masses how to successfully wash their own hands. I guess they couldn't use Row, Row, Row Your Boat because that song just goes on forever, and people would be stuck at the sink washing their hands like disturbed obsessive-compulsive hand washing addicts.

By the way, at the risk of descending into amateurish Valley Talk, I'm totally not making this up. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (the CDC) actually gives this same recommendation on their website, along with instructions on how to wash your hands. (

Upon seeing this poster, I remembered some important new research revealing that 100,000 Americans die each year from diseases caused by doctors not washing their hands.

Apparently, these doctors aren't following the Happy Birthday poster. They're probably stopping at "Happy Birthday to you..." and that's it. They need to continue with all the lyrics, most of which involve simply repeating the title of the song.

And if they really want to get their hands clean, they can continue scrubbing away while they append the additional words that are usually slurred along by some inebriated relative at every birthday party: "And many more..."

How to actually wash your hands

Now that we have the timing down, we need to review a bit of hand washing technique. Because, strangely, this is not widely known.

On this point, the CDC once again comes to our rescue with step-by-step instructions for how to wash your own hands.

Apparently, there are many wrong ways to wash your hands, and it is possible that doctors are stumbling with this point, causing a high rate of hand washing failure that ends up infecting patients. Did you know, for example, that all of the following actions result in hand washing failure?

• Forgetting to wet your hands before adding soap and rubbing them together.

• Forgetting to rub your hands together and just letting them hang there in the sink.

• Forgetting to rinse your hands, leaving them covered in soap and wondering why you're standing in front of a sink.

• Forgetting that you have TWO hands, and trying to wash one hand with itself.

• Forgetting why you are standing in front of the sink in the first place, humming the Happy Birthday song to yourself like a complete idiot because it's not even your birthday.

But wait! There's more to hand washing than just mastering the technique itself (and remembering all the words to "Happy Birthday"). It's also important to know when to wash your hands.

People who wash their hands when there's no need to wash them are called Obsessive Compulsive. People who don't wash their hands when they do need to wash them are called Physicians. Somewhere in between these two extremes, there's a correct amount of hand washing to be happily discovered, and the CDC wants to make sure you can locate this sweet spot without too much difficulty.

That's why their clean hands page ( gives specific advice for when to wash your hands, including:

• Before preparing or consuming food (not after, because that's wrong).

• After going to the bathroom (not before, because that's wrong, too).

Right away, this brings up some complexities. What if, for example, you eat a slice of pizza while sitting on the toilet, as a few of my former college buddies were known to do? Do you wash your hands before such an event, or after? Or after each slice? Do you interrupt your toilet duty with hand washing just to make sure? Should you sing Happy Birthday to yourself on the toilet while washing your hands, or is that just too weird?

There's more:

• Before and after tending to a sick person (but not during).

• After blowing your nose or coughing up something (not before).

• Before and after treating a wound (but not during).

As you can see, it's all quite complex and confusing. Apparently, there are a thousand or so scenarios for which you're supposed to remember when to wash your hands either before something happens, or after something happens, or both before and after, and this all gets rather complicated very quickly, especially if your mind is preoccupied with that afternoon's golf game.

Wouldn't it be easier if we just invented some clever mythology and told people that the world is full of invisible microscopic germs that cause disease if they get inside your body, and they can get inside through the holes in your face, or holes in your skin. And the stuff that comes out of your holes should never get into other people's holes or you might infect them with your germs, and that's bad.

Armed with that information, people could sort of figure out for themselves when hand washing might be necessary: After picking your nose, before (and after) picking your friend's nose, etc.

Before handling your own food, unless you work in fast food in which case you can just fake like you washed your hands...

After shaking hands with Old Man Richard at the retirement center, because he smells funny...

Before conducting minor cosmetic surgery on your eyebrows with a pair of tweezers and a half-empty bottle of Russian vodka...

After touching fast food you just purchased, because you never know whether the greasy teen who made it washed his own hands...

You get the idea.

Germ Theory isn't rocket science. And neither is hand washing. So why can't our own doctors figure out how to wash their own hands? Probably because they're so busy patting each other on the back that they only have one hand free to wash most of the time, and as we pointed out above, one-handed hand washing doesn't work.

Protect yourself from your germ-infested doctor

So how can you protect yourself from your non-hand-washing physician who brings you antibiotic resistant germs from the patient next door? You could, of course, just hum Happy Birthday as he enters the room and hope he catches the hint. Or you could do something else...

I'll give you just four words: Cell phones and neckties.

What's the deal with cell phones and neckties?

Cell phones and neckties are where your attending physician harbors MRSA and other antibiotic-resistant bacteria that just can't wait to turn your flesh into their next buffet. It's true: Cell phones and neckties are the worst carriers of bacteria in hospitals. And you know why? Think about it: Neither of these ever gets washed!

And this leads me to my final suggestion for hospital safety: Doctors should be required to wash their cell phones and neckties while they sing the Happy Birthday song. That's one song for the phone, one for the necktie and a third round of the song for their own hands which are obviously infected because they just used them to wash their germ-infested neckties.

That's why we are only three rounds of "Happy Birthday" away from safer hospital care in America.

That's good news. It's almost good enough to sing about.

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