The Do’s and Don’ts of Mask Layering

The newer variants of COVID-19 are more contagious but, new cases of COVID-19 are falling around the world! That’s great news! Health experts are trying to figure out why cases are dropping as the more virulent types of COVID-19 are become the dominant forms of the virus.

Globally, new cases have dropped by almost half in the last six weeks. Part of that is because we are coming down from the post-holiday spike. The winter holidays caused large numbers of new cases as people gathered together. But that alone doesn’t account for it. One theory is that enough people have been ill that we have some people with built-up immunity, cutting down on numbers. But that also wouldn’t account for the drop-off. Some of it might be vaccination rates. Countries are scrambling to vaccinate people as quickly as possible. It could be stricter health measures.

Or, it could be that people are following rules more closely as they are more frightened of the newer, more catching variants. If it is that last factor, and you are trying to be safer than ever, you might be interested in the recent trend of double masking.

Last Tuesday, Feb. 9, the CDC announced that wearing two masks offered more protection than one. It doubles the number of blocked particles that you exhale from reaching another person. But, there are wrong ways and right ways to wear two masks.

First thing’s first. One mask is better than none. Some people feel uncomfortable in masks. If wearing a second mask on top will make you less likely to wear one at all, stick to one mask. And, no matter your facial protection, social distancing and hand washing are always important. Masks with three cloth layers made from tightly woven fabric and disposable surgical masks offer protection.

When you start adding layers, it logically makes breathing feel more difficult. The CDC wrote, “Breathing might take more effort when wearing a mask that fits and filters better.” But, if you have difficulty breathing, layering masks is not a good option for you. Restricting your airflow is unsafe. There is a difference between breathing being more of an effort and being difficult. Additionally, if you wear KN95 masks or N95 masks, you should not wear a second mask. They are the most effective masks available and will undoubtedly be hard to breathe through if you add layers.

If you want to double mask, pair a disposable mask with a cloth mask. Don’t layer two disposable masks. Layering surgical masks will make them fit less securely. Putting a cloth mask over a surgical mask makes a tighter seal around your nose and mouth, stopping anything from reaching your face. The CDC explained, “The second mask should push the edges of the inner mask against your face.”   

Layering masks is an excellent way to cut down on your risk of catching COVID-19 if you are going out and likely to be near people. However, it must be done correctly. If you are interested in doing it, try it at home to see how you feel and if you can breathe easily and behave naturally. If it’s not right for you, wearing one mask will give you protection. And remember, social distancing and washing your hands is necessary, no matter how you cover your face.

Banner image: Anton via Unsplash
February 19, 2021
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