Maybe you’ve heard about the “double-masking” strategy to protect against new coronavirus variants and are wondering if you should give it a try. Here’s the basic idea behind the strategy: The new variants are thought to have an easier time binding to our cells, so the more layers we have covering our noses and mouths, the less likely we’ll be exposed to viral particles that can infect our cells and make us sick. Two masks may help create a stronger shield between you and the virus.
Here’s what we know so far about double-masking so you can make the best choices for yourself:
More layers = more air filtration.
“The more layers, the more barriers you can put between yourself and the virus, the better off you’re going to be,” said Thomas Duszynski, the Director of Epidemiology Education at Indiana University’s Richard M. Fairbanks School of Public Health.
Comfort matters. Make sure you choose breathable fabrics with no valves, otherwise you’ll defeat the purpose.
Onyema Ogbuagu, a Yale Medicine infectious disease doctor and Principal Investigator of Yale’s Pfizer COVID-19 trial, said you definitely want the masks, worn together, to be comfortable.
Keep in mind: Certain materials can make it tough to breathe, and there is such a thing as over-masking, which can actually wind up doing more harm than good. So, find the right level of protection that is also comfortable because a well-fitting mask is more effective than multiple layers that don’t fit comfortably or properly and cause you to continually move the mask or touch your face. Lastly, don’t pick a mask with a valve that defeats the purpose of masking by potentially allowing gaps in the filtration.
If you’re going to double mask, put your air-filtration mask on first, then cover it up with another one.
The mask with the greatest filtering capabilities should go on first, like a well-fitted surgical mask. Make sure that mask is tightly sealed against your face. You don’t want gaps in the mask along the sides of your face where contaminated air can sneak in.
Double-masks don’t equal a pass from social distancing or hand washing.
Also, keep in mind that double masking does not replace the CDC recommended guidelines for protecting yourself from COVID, so be sure to continue social distancing, washing your hands regularly and avoiding crowds. Together we can keep our communities safe ― step up, chin up, mask up and crush COVID.