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Double Masking: Why Two Face Masks Are Better Than One

Double Masking: Why Two Face Masks Are Better Than One

The sudden surge in the number of COVID-19 cases this new year is overwhelming, to say the least. Just as the number of cases dropped to less than a thousand daily, the holidays quickly reversed our progress with a record-breaking 33,000+ cases on January 10. As many parts of the country are at Alert level 3, what can we do to stop the spread of COVID-19? Can double masking help to prevent the spread of the virus? Find out here.

Living in a Pandemic

As we have been in this pandemic for two years, Filipinos already know much about the safety protocols and preventive measures like:

On top of these preventive measures is the universal use of face masks to minimize the spread of COVID-19. Over the months, many different masks have been adopted, including:

  • Disposable surgical masks
  • Reusable cloth masks
  • KN95 masks

As more variants continue to emerge, some are far more contagious, such as the Omicron variant. Finding better ways to keep yourself, as well as your family protected, is something we all need to consider. Double masking might be one of the easiest ways to do so.

Double Masking Explained

Double masking is the practice of layering one mask on top of the other. This is done to provide a better fit and to increase filtration that could substantially reduce exposure — both from infected wearers (source control), as well as to uninfected wearers (wearer exposure).

Wearing two masks allows the outer mask to gently press against the edges of the inner mask. This helps in creating a proper fit and reduces any gaps between the mask and your skin.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) tested two ways to optimize the fit of medical procedure masks:

  1. Putting on a cloth mask over a surgical mask
  2. Knotting the ear loops of a surgical mask

Both modifications showed significant improvements in source control and exposure.

Experiments such as these emphasise the importance of proper mask fit in order to maximize mask performance. The CDC suggests double masking to provide additional protection from infectious airborne particles. But, if your mask already has multiple layers, then you do not need to double mask anymore.

How To Practice Double Masking

The correct and consistent use of masks is a vital part of preventing the spread of COVID-19.

The CDC recommends wearing a disposable mask underneath a cloth mask to improve fit and protection. Some masks combinations may not work as intended, so it is best to avoid these combinations:

  • Two surgical masks
  • A KN95 mask and a different type of mask

When using a cloth mask, it is necessary that you wash your mask every so often to prevent contamination. Having several cloth masks on rotation can help you achieve maximum protection.

Here is how you can add layers of protection to improve the performance of your face masks:

  • Ideally, you can use a cloth mask with multiple layers of fabric.
  • You may also wear a disposable mask under a cloth mask. The cloth mask should push the disposable mask’s edges against your face.
  • Using a 3-ply mask, knot the ear loops where they all meet the mask’s edge.

To maximize the fit and protection, you may consider the following:

  • Mask with a nose wire
  • Use of mask fitter or brace

Key Takeaways

Regardless of whether you use double masking or not, it is important that your mask fits snugly against your face. Do not let gaps form, but be mindful that you can both see and breathe well with the mask on.

Practicing double masking does not guarantee that you will not contract the virus. But it provides you with an additional layer of protection. With the rising rate of infection and the threat of Omicron, we must all find more effective ways to protect ourselves and our families from COVID-19.

Learn more about Coronavirus here.

Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

Sources

Does Your Face Mask Fit Properly?, https://www.uchicagomedicine.org/forefront/coronavirus-disease-covid-19/should-you-be-double-masking Accessed January 10, 2022

How to Double Mask?, https://caro.doh.gov.ph/how-to-double-mask/ Accessed January 10, 2022

Improve How Your Mask Protects You, https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/your-health/effective-masks.html Accessed January 10, 2022

Improve the Fit and Filtration of Your Mask to Reduce the Spread of COVID-19, https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/prevent-getting-sick/mask-fit-and-filtration.html Accessed January 10, 2022

Maximizing Fit for Cloth and Medical Procedure Masks to Improve Performance and Reduce SARS-CoV-2 Transmission and Exposure, 2021, https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/volumes/70/wr/mm7007e1.htm Accessed January 10, 2022

Should You Wear Two Masks to prevent the Spread of COVID-19?, https://health.clevelandclinic.org/should-you-wear-two-masks-to-prevent-the-spread-of-covid-19/ Accessed January 10, 2022

What Doctors Wish Patients Knew About Double Masking, https://www.ama-assn.org/delivering-care/public-health/what-doctors-wish-patients-knew-about-double-masking Accessed January 10, 2022

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Written by Fiel Tugade Updated 2 weeks ago
Fact Checked by Vincent Sales