When you wear two masks (one on top of another), it is referred to as “Double Masking”. The outer mask can exert gentle pressure on the edges of the inner one, creating a better seal.
As the coronavirus can spread through tiny respiratory droplets, masking in layers can help enhance its filtration capacity, and also better protect against someone who coughs or sneezes around you.
Do you know where and when you should double mask? What are the incredible double masking benefits? What combinations of double masks are suitable for preventing virus transmission?
If not, read the blog till the end and find out the answers to each of these questions. We will also be discussing several other ways to improve the effectiveness of your masks, along with all other precautions for COVID-19.
What Makes Double Masking Much More Protective Against COVID-19?
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) evaluated common face coverings in a lab setting to check how well they stop respiratory particles.
Researchers imitated breathing and coughing between a pair of dummies without any masks, three-ply cloth masks, three-ply surgical masks, surgical masks layered under cloth masks, and surgical masks with knotted and tucked sides.
The outcomes suggest that fit and filtration should be optimized in every mask.
When an infected dummy coughed, unknotted surgical masks and solo cloth masks prevented just 42% and 44% of respiratory particles from evading into the air, respectively; double masking blocked nearly 93%.
Exposure to droplets from an unmasked dummy was decreased by about 65% with a knotted and tucked surgical mask and 83% with a double mask.
When both dummies were wearing double masks or knotted and tucked surgical masks, droplet exposure was reduced by nearly 96% from unmasked levels.
Double masking adds an extra layer of filter, making it even more challenging for the drops of moisture driven by the virus to gain access to you or to spread to others.
The same holds true with creating a firm seal around the nose, mouth, and cheeks, which reduces the amount of unfiltered air allowed to escape from/into your mask.
Regardless of whether you are an infected person or an exposed person, better-fitting, layered masks will work exceptionally well in both situations.
This works even better when coupled with other COVID-19 precautions such as frequent hand washing and social distancing.
Proper masking involves the following three key components
- Good fit
- Multiple layers
- Wearing a mask consistently
This will help you minimize the transmission of the COVID-19 virus effectively.
Where And When Should You Double Mask?
When it comes to masking, there isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution. You need to choose when to double mask by analyzing the situation around you.
If you are in a place where you are alone or can maintain a safe distance of at least 6 feet from others, then your go-to mask can work pretty well.
But in a crowded place, double masking can be extremely beneficial as long as you can easily breathe and see through your masks the entire time.
You need to double mask when you are:
- Visiting a doctor
- Doing a job where maintaining social distancing seems infeasible
- Going for shopping
- Traveling by plane or using any other public transportation
But remember that any mask is better than no mask at all. If the option is “no mask”, we suggest you wear at least your regular mask. So if you forget to double mask while visiting your doctor or grocery store, don’t stress.
Just ensure that you are wearing at least one mask that fits correctly, and try to remember another one the next time you step out of your home.
Also, wearing double masks doesn’t imply that you can stop washing your hands thoroughly and frequently or maintaining physical distance from people outside of your household.
Studies suggest that if you wear double masks and still indulge in risky behaviors, you can still get infected or transmit the virus.
How To Double Mask Properly?
Now that you know how beneficial double masking is, you may be wondering how to double mask to protect yourself against COVID-19. Here are some of the most useful tips to help you get started:
- Make sure you use the proper mask combination: According to the CDC, we must layer a cotton mask over a surgical mask.
- Avoid incorrect mask combinations: Some mask combinations can make breathing difficult or may not fit appropriately. Following are some mask combinations that you need to avoid:
- Two surgical masks
- An N95 with any other type of mask
- A KN95 with any other type of mask
- Test at home first: Before using double masks in public, you should try them out at your home first. Check for some of the following things:
- Fit: The outer mask should press the inner mask close to your face, creating a seal. To achieve this, cup your hands over your mask and feel for air getting away from the sides as you breathe.
- Breathing: While double masking can increase your effort to breathe properly, however, it should not interrupt the supply of oxygen.
- Vision: Make sure double masking doesn’t block your vision.
Double Masking for COVID-19 Virus Variants
In the past few months, various variants of the novel coronavirus have emerged all over the world. These variants can spread more easily between individuals, causing life-threatening symptoms.
Research suggests that the UK variant (B.1.1.7) is 50% more transmissible than the original COVID-19 virus. Other variants that emerged in the US and India, also appear to be more transmissible and deadly.
As these virus variants are much more transmissible, we must enhance our level of precautionary measures to remain protected against them. Given the double masking benefits, it can be an excellent tool to control the spread of the virus.
What Other Ways Are There To Improve Your Mask’s Effectiveness?
Apart from double masking for covid, there are many other ways by which you can improve the effectiveness of your mask. These include:
- Prioritize layers: Research has found that multiple layers work to better protect your face from respiratory droplets that could contain the virus. While buying a cloth mask, make sure to choose the one with at least 2 – 3 layers of fabric.
Attach a filter to your cloth mask: Certain cloth masks come with a built-in pocket wherein you can attack a filter material including a vacuum filter or a coffee filter. You can also refer to various online sources to create a cloth mask with a filter on your own.
- Opt for a mask with a nose wire: Choose the mask that comes with a strip of wire sited at the top. You can twist this piece of wire to allow the mask to better fit your nose. Another advantage of using a mask with a wire is that you can keep your specs from fogging up.
- Consider the knot and tuck method: The knock and tuck method can be used to enhance the fit of your surgical masks. It involves knotting the ear loops close to where they join the mask and carefully tucking away any extra material. Click here to check CDC guidelines on how to do this appropriately.
- Utilize a mask brace: A mask brace is a device that is composed of an elastic material. It fits over a single surgical or cloth face mask to help prevent air from evading from the sides and top of the mask.
Other Preventive Measures For COVID-19
In addition to double masking for covid, there are several other preventive measures that we are following for a year now.
Let us recall those tips and aim to follow them meticulously.
- Washing your hands frequently: Wash your hands properly with soap and water for about 20 seconds every time after coughing, sneezing, or being in public places. Make use of sanitizer (with at least 60% alcohol) in circumstances where soap and water aren’t available.
- Social distancing: Maintain a safe distance of at least 6 m from people outside of your household.
- Disinfecting: If you share a residence with other people, make sure you disinfect all the high-touch surfaces in your home frequently, such as doorknobs, switchboards, countertops, table surfaces, etc.
- Avoiding crowded places: Try and avoid places that are crowded or have no or minimal ventilation.
- Getting tested: If you are experiencing any COVID-19 symptoms, get tested immediately and kindly isolate yourself at home while you await your results.
If someone in your family is COVID positive, then also you need to get tested and isolate yourself at home to avoid transmitting the virus.
The recent COVID-19 variants have proven to be much more transmissible and deadly for people across the globe. If you experience any symptoms, make sure to get tested and isolate yourself until your test results arrive.
The COVID-19 vaccines are proven to be effective against the virus variants as well. If you haven’t yet registered for the COVID-19 vaccine yet, do that immediately because it is the only way to build herd immunity and end the pandemic.