Should We Wear Two Face Masks For Better Protection?

During an interview, Dr. Anthony Fauci, Chief Medical Advisor to the U.S. president, stated that he thinks it’s just common sense to wear two face masks simultaneously, one on top of the other, instead of one, for better protection. 

Several prominent figures have already embraced this ‘double-masking’ trend. Both US President Biden and US Vice President Harris have been seen in public, double-masking. Also, Amanda Gorman, the poet at President Biden’s inauguration, had double masked by wearing a non-medical disposable mask under an embellished red fabric mask. 

 

Do other experts agree with Dr Fauci’s recommendation to double-mask?

Dr. Fauci is not the only one who thinks we should start wearing two masks. A study in the peer-reviewed journal “Matter”, found that wearing two masks increased protection by 50% to 75% without restricting the flow of oxygen. Dr. Loretta Fernandez, the author of the study, also found that wearing two masks allowed a more snug fit for the mask closest to the wearer’s face. Dr. Julian Tang who is an honorary associate professor and clinical virologist at the University of Leicester also supports Dr. Anthony Fauci’s recommendation on wearing two separate masks. These findings are quite significant especially as new variants of COVID-19 which are more contagious continue to emerge. 

There has been a great amount of confusion with procedures regarding the COVID-19 pandemic. Between misinformation online to continuously updated regulations from government organizations, many people are confused on how to effectively mitigate the pandemic. One aspect of this confusion has been with how many layers are most effective against COVID-19. 

#AFPGraphics compares different ways of wearing masks to maximise protection against the Coronavirus:

How to Double mask correctly

Credit: AFP News Agency

 

Do you have to wear two face masks in the UK?

No, Public Health England has not advised people in the UK to double-mask.  However, consultations are ongoing and if there are any changes, we will be sure to post it here.  Official organisations worldwide have yet to make a statement on double-masking. These are the current recommendations for the number of layers for face masks:

The World Health Organization recommends three layers for fabric masks, including a non-woven filter material

The UK Government states masks should ideally comprise of at least two layers of fabric

The Center for Disease Control recommends wearing masks with two or three layers

 

Will double-masking make it difficult to breathe?

As a result of the emerging trend of double masking, some have raised concerns about breathability and comfort. According to the Matter study referenced earlier, double masking did not restrict the flow of Oxygen to the wearer. There aren’t any other studies to support this conclusion however, which means for now it will be up to the individual to decide whether wearing two masks is still allowing them to breathe comfortably.

 

How should I wear two face masks?

One cannot simply wear any two masks and expect to achieve ideal protection from Coronavirus variants . The proper way to double-mask is to first wear a layered non-medical mask or a filter mask or a medical mask like an N95; then wear a cloth mask on top. This will maximize both protection and comfort.  

Even though it is not officially required for people to wear two masks, this trend is likely to grow especially as the scientific community continues to learn more about COVID-19.  The general consensus on double masking has been that more is better. In other words, wearing two separate masks at once may have additional benefits of improving the overall fit and the effectiveness of fabric masks, further protecting people against variants of the Coronavirus. Even though it is not an official requirement for citizens of the UK to wear two masks, it could be the safest option for the elderly and people with chronic illness to take the extra few seconds to put on a second mask. It could mean the difference between living their full life or relying on a ventilator.

 

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