When the pandemic began, there were a few tools in our arsenal against our fight against the coronavirus — soaps, sanitisers and face masks. We may or may not be washing our hands down to stumps anymore, but our allegiance to the mask has been steadfast.
Whether you are a N95 fanatic or a homemade mask user, you can’t deny that masks remain the most enduring and most effective accessory against the coronavirus.
A key measure to suppress the transmission of the virus, masks work best when used with other covid-preventive measures like physical distancing, avoiding crowds, hand washing, etc.
There’s no doubt in our minds about the efficacy of the mask. But if one mask can do so much, how much more efficient would double masking be?
What is double masking?
As the name suggests, it’s the practice of using two masks at the same time. Double masking already has plenty of takers, including Dr Anthony Fauci and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
If one mask is good, it makes common sense that maybe two masks are better.
— Dr Fauci
The doctor has notably recommended using two cloth masks, which will give you a better fit and filtration against the virus.
CDC has found that double masking — putting a cloth mask over a surgical one — can improve protection by 50%.
A recent study published in the JAMA Internal Medicine, said that wearing a full-coverage mask made of a scarf, bandanna or gaiter, over a surgical mask offers the best protection.
How to use two masks
There are certain dos and don’ts of double masking. Most studies and doctors recommend combining a surgical mask with a cloth mask for better fit and protection.
As effective as double masking is, it works best if everyone is doing it. In a lab test with dummies, double-masking with a cloth mask atop a surgical mask was found to block 92.5% of cough particles when one mannequin wore them. When two mannequins wore them, the efficiency was increased to 96.4%.
Never use two disposable masks at the same time. According to the CDC, “disposable masks are not designed to fit tightly and wearing more than one will not improve fit.”
Do not double mask if you are using a KN95 mask that helps you achieve a very close fit around your nose and mouth.
Wearing multiple masks don’t necessarily improve filtration; however, it offers a better fit around the mouth and nose, ensuring that the viruses don’t enter through the gaps.
If you must use homemade fabric masks, the World Health Organization recommends that they have at least three layers.
The CDC also prescribes using a mask fitter or brace over a disposable mask or a cloth mask to prevent air from leaking in or out of the mask.
However, double masking is not recommended for everyone, especially if you have breathing difficulties. Best to consult a doctor before you mask up!
At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter one or two. ANY mask is better than no mask!