Wearing Two Masks and Best Tips to make your COVID-19 mask more effective
Dr. Anthony Fauci wears two masks at a briefing on November 19. Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images

Why double-masking is actually a good idea

Should you wear two masks out in public? A recent study by the CDC in the US suggests it could better protect you during the Covid-19 pandemic.

New research from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) shows ‘double-masking’ can significantly improve protection, blocking 92.5% of potentially infectious particles from escaping by creating a tighter fit and eliminating leakage.

One way to improve masking is to first put on a paper mask — commonly known as a blue surgical mask — and then put on a tight-fitting cloth mask over that. The second mask will cover big gaps that can occur with a paper mask, allowing air to leak around the sides. Another option is to use a cloth mask that has multiple layers of fabric, according to the CDC.

They also found ‘knotting’ a mask can improve the overall performance of medical procedure masks.

The research comes one week after the US’s top infectious disease expert, Dr Anthony Fauci, recommended the public consider double-masking.

“There’s nothing wrong with people wearing two masks,” Dr Fauci said at a press briefing. “I often myself wear two masks.”

How to double-mask

Two masks might be better than one, particularly when they're worn like this.

Two masks might be better than one, particularly when they're worn like this.

Disposable masks, such as the common blue surgical masks, often don’t fit snugly, allowing unfiltered air to escape.

By placing a fitted cloth mask to secure the loose medical mask in place, the wearer can prevent unfiltered air and particles being leaked, better protecting the wearer and those around them. The wearer should ensure the masks fir the face as tightly as possible.

How to knot your mask

Tying knots in the ear loops of surgical masks can improve the mask's performance and keep you and those around you safer.

Tying knots in the ear loops of surgical masks can improve the mask's performance and keep you and those around you safer.

Fold your mask edges inward and tie a knot on the ear loop strings where they meet mask fabric. This flattens the excess fabric and reduces the gap on either side of the face.

A knotted medical mask can block 63% of particles from escaping, while an unknotted mask blocks only 42% of particles, according to the CDC's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

the CDC recently outlined a DIY way to achieve a tighter seal.

Start by folding the mask in half, edge to edge. Then tie both ear loops so the knots are as close to the mask as possible. Finally, unfold the mask and tuck any extra fabric beneath the knots.

"You can tell that the mask is tighter-fitting on your face because the mask moves in and out as you breathe," Emily Sickbert-Bennett, the director of infection prevention at UNC Hospitals.

The "knot and tuck" method, she added, can improve the mask's filtration by up to 20%.

Best Tips to make your COVID-19 mask more effective

Here are best tips to improve your mask-wearing strategy:

*Wearing a cloth mask over a surgical one can block more than 92% of coughed particles: The researchers Linsey Marr and Monica Gandhi made the case for double-masking in a November study that's still awaiting peer review.

The combination of a cloth mask over a surgical one, they found, was more than 70% effective at filtering tiny particles (less than 0.3 micrometers) and more than 90% efficient at filtering particles 1 micrometer and larger.

The surgical mask acts as a filter while the cloth mask helps to ensure a tight seal.

*Double masking

*Choose a mask with a nose wire: A nose wire is a metal strip at the top of a mask that can be molded to fit the bridge of your nose to prevent air from leaking out the top.

*Use a ‘mask fitter’ or ‘brace’: There are new devices you can buy that can be placed over a disposable or cloth mask to prevent air from leaking around the edges of the mask.

*Don’t combine a KN95 or an N95 with another mask: Use only one KN95 mask at a time: CDC officials say KN95s as well as traditional N95s are intended to be used on their own. Adding extra masks underneath or on top of them “could not only affect how well they fit the face and decrease their effectiveness, but could increase the effort needed to breathe through them,” the CDC said in an email to The Times.

*Don’t combine two disposable masks: “Disposable masks are not designed to fit tightly, and wearing more than one will not improve fit,” the CDC says.

*Knot and tuck the ear loops: Knotting the ear loops of a face mask at the mask’s edge, and folding and tucking excess mask material under the edges, can help improve the fit.

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