The Importance of Double Masking to Prevent Covid Infections

Everyone is taking all kinds of measures possible to prevent the spread as well as getting infected by SARS-CoV-2, which is the latest Coronavirus causing COVID-19. Wearing a mask is one of the preventive measures highly recommended for preventing the spread of COVID-19. Ever since the second wave of COVID-19, there has been added stress on double masking. Let’s find out how important or necessary double masking is.

There are different types of mask available for use, such as good old cloth masks; KN95 masks and surgical masks.

What is Double Masking and What Are Its Benefits?

The concept of double masking started and was given importance during the second spike of covid-19. Double masking is where you wear two face masks, one over the other. Double masking has double benefits such as:

Increased Filtration; Thanks to Double Masking(1)

As most of us know by now, SARS-CoV-2 spreads primarily through respiratory droplets coming from a covid infected person when they are coughing, talking, laughing or sneezing. The material in a mask filters respiratory droplets containing the virus before you can inhale them. Wearing 2 masks gives you extra layers and more filtration from the Coronavirus.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) highly recommend wearing a face mask that is made of a minimum of two to three layers of fabric. The filtration is greatly improved upon wearing a second mask, as it doubles the layers of material, which the respiratory droplets containing the covid virus has to penetrate through before it can reach the mouth and face.

Better Fit; Thanks To Layering of 2 Masks

When double masking the outer mask helps in sealing the gaping edges of the inner mask creating a better fit over your face and giving better protection.

There are many face masks that don’t have a good fit on your face. They can be loose so that you can even feel the air escaping from the sides of the mask when breathing. This imperfect fit of the mask can easily permit covid virus respiratory droplets to escape your mask as well as enter into your mask. Wearing double masks or 2 masks, one layered over the other, helps in preventing this dangerous scenario from happening.

The Process of Double Masking and the Desired Combination.

We’ve already gone through double masking and what are its benefits; however, there is a method to wearing two masks effectively and safely to ensure complete protection from the corona virus. Some of the pointers in the correct manner to double mask are:

The Combination of the Two Masks: According to recommendation of the CDC, it is better to wear a cloth mask over a surgical mask.(2) This is the highly approved combination of double masking; and other mask combinations are better avoided as they can make it hard for you to breathe or can be ill-fitting. The following masks combinations should be avoided:

  • Two surgical masks.
  • An N95 and any other form of mask.
  • A KN95 and any other form of mask.

Always Test the Double Masks Before Stepping Out

It is recommended to test your double masking method at home before wearing it in public places. When double masking, make sure to look for things such as:

The Fit of the Masks: Your outer mask should seal the inner mask near your face. To test this, cup your hands in front of your mask and see if you can feel the air escaping from the sides of the mask when breathing.

Vision Clearance When Double Masking: Always make sure that your vision stays clear and does not get blocked by the double masks.

Breathing: Double masking requires more effort in breathing; however, it shouldn’t cause difficulty in breathing.

Gauge the Situation: A single mask can suffice, if you are able to maintain a distance of minimum 6 feet from other people when outside. However, you should try to double mask if you are:

  • Visiting the doctor.
  • Going shopping.
  • Working at a job where it is not possible to maintain physical distancing.
  • Traveling with people outside your household, such as by train, plane or public transportation

How Effective Is Double Masking in Preventing Covid When Compared To A Single Mask?(3)

According to the findings of Center Of Disease Control, they have the following recommendations for double masking and improving the fit of the mask and cutting down on the exposure to SARS-CoV-2.

The study conducted breathing and coughing simulation with the help of a device, which generated aerosol particles that can be quantified after the experiment was done.

Coughing Simulation

During the simulation of coughing, researchers assessed the effectiveness of:

  • A surgical mask alone.
  • A cloth mask alone.
  • A cloth mask that was worn over a surgical mask (double mask).

According to research, upon simulation the double mask helped in blocking about 85.4% of the aerosol particles. This is more when compared to 56.1% and 51.4% for the surgical and cloth mask, respectively worn alone.

Breathing Simulation

In the breathing simulation experiment, two models of a human head were used to explore different several situations. One of the head models acted as the source of the aerosol particles and the other one was the recipient getting exposed to the aerosol particles.

The Results Were:

  • When the recipient was double masked and the source model was not wearing any mask, then it was observed there was about 83% reduction of the aerosol exposure by double masked recipient.
  • When the source model had a double mask on and the recipient model was not wearing any mask, there was reduction by 82.2% in the aerosol exposure of the unmasked recipient.
  • When both the recipient and source wore a double mask, then there was significant reduction by 96.4 percent in the aerosol exposure, which is great.

The Importance of Double Masking

In a nutshell, there were two important things discovered in this research:

  • Wearing a double mask was more effective when compared to either a surgical mask or a cloth mask at reducing the aerosol exposure generated from coughing.
  • The aerosol exposure via breathing was significantly reduced when both the recipient as well as the source was double masking.

Viral Variants and Double Masking(4)

The recent months has seen emergence of various variants of the new Coronavirus all over the world. The spread of some of these Coronavirus is very fast between people.

One of the variant is B.1.1.7, also referred to as the “United Kingdom variant,” which is reported to have increased transmissible rate by 50%.

A research has also shown a recent identification of another covid variant in California during a peak in the COVID-19 cases. This variant also is reported to be highly transmissible.

So, better preventative measures are needed now more than ever to combat the increase in these transmissible variants of corona virus. Double masking has proven to be very effective in preventing the transmission of these variants.

Some Other Methods To Increase The Effectiveness Of Your Mask Are:

More Layers Are Better

Multiple layers of mask are more effective in shielding your face from aerosol droplets, which have the covid virus in them. Always choose a cloth mask that has a minimum of 2 to 3 fabric layers.

Using a Mask with a Nose Wire

Select a mask, which has a strip of wire present at the top, so you can bend this wire accordingly for a better fit of the mask over your nose. A mask having a nose wire also helps in preventing the fogging up of your glasses and keeping your vision clear.

Addition of Filter to your Cloth Mask

There is a built-in pocket present in some cloth masks where filter material, such as a vacuum filter or coffee filter can be placed.

Mask Brace Is Helpful

Made from elastic material, a mask brace is a device that fits over a surgical mask or a single cloth to prevent the escaping of air from the sides and top of the mask.

The Knot & Tuck Method

The knot and tuck method is done to better the fitting of surgical masks. This method comprises of knotting the ear loops near to where they attach to the mask and tucking the extra material.

What to Avoid When It Comes To Wearing Your Mask?

There are some practices that decrease the effectives of the face mask from the novel Coronavirus. For adequate protection from the aerosol containing the virus, do not wear a face mask that:

  • Does not fit properly, is either too loose or too tight.
  • The mask doesn’t completely cover your mouth and nose.
  • The mask is made of only a single layer of fabric.
  • The mask is made from a non-breathable material like plastic, leather or vinyl.
  • Do not wear a mask that is made of loosely woven fabric, like a knitted or crocheted mask.
  • Do not wear mask that has an exhalation vent.
  • A mask that is a ski mask, scarf or balaclava should be avoided, as it does not give adequate protection against COVID-19.

The Covid Protocols Other Than Masking

Other than a mask, additional steps to prevent the new variants of the Coronavirus are:

  1. Frequent Washing of Hands: Frequently washing your hands using soap and water, especially if you have been sneezing, coughing or out in public places is important in preventing infection from SARS COV-2. If soap and water are not available, then hand sanitizer made of a minimum of 60% alcohol must be used.
  2. Physical Distancing: By practicing physical distancing, it is meant to maintain a minimum distance of 6 feet from other people when outside of your home.
  3. Disinfecting: It is extremely important to disinfect the regularly used and touched surfaces of home, such as countertops, light switches and door knobs.
  4. Avoiding Certain Places: Places that have minimal ventilation or are crowded should be avoided completely.
  5. Getting Tested ASAP: If you or anyone you know are experiencing COVID-19 symptoms; then get tested immediately and isolate yourself completely while waiting for results.

Conclusion: Double Masking: Is It Worth It?

Yes, it is absolutely worth to your health to wear double masks; that is wearing one mask over other to protect yourself against this persistent covid pandemic. Double masking helps with the filtration and the fit of your mask by sealing off any gaping edges.

According to CDC, double masking is extremely effective in preventing aerosols exposure through breathing, sneezing and coughing. The best combination of double masking is layering a cloth mask on top of a surgical mask. It is better to avoid other mask combinations.

Along with double masking, always follow covid protocols, such as physical distancing, washing your hands and getting tested as soon as symptoms develop; especially in this current times where there is emergence of more contagious variants of corona virus.

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