As COVID-19 cases continue to surge, more-contagious variants of the virus are beginning to circulate in the US. As people look for ways to better protect themselves and others, double masking has emerged as one strategy. But does wearing two masks actually make a difference in curbing the spread of these variants? And if so, how can you do it effectively? We asked experts.
Does Double Masking Help Protect Against COVID-19?
Based on current knowledge, experts agree that two masks are better than one. "Double masking likely does help increase protection, especially against the emerging mutant strains of COVID-19," Sri Banerjee, PhD, an epidemiologist and core faculty member in Walden University's PhD in Public Health program, told POPSUGAR. Dr. Banerjee explained that the new variants may have an easier time binding to human cells. If we have more layers covering our faces, we're less likely to be exposed to the viral particles that infect our cells and make us sick.
"Double masking creates more of an obstacle course for the viral particle to navigate its way from the air into your nose, throat, and then lungs," Dr. Banjeree said. "This is how two masks may help create a stronger shield between you and the virus."
How to Wear 2 Masks to Effectively Block Viral Particles
"It is not just anecdotal but scientifically proven too that double masking can offer a high percentage of protection," explained Sunitha Posina, MD, a board-certified internist in New York City who works on the front lines with COVID-19 patients. Specifically, you should try wearing a well-fitted cloth mask over a surgical mask or a mask with two layers of tightly woven fabric with a filter, such as a vacuum bag, in between. Research suggests that these combinations should help block at least 90 percent of particles one micron or larger, "which happens to be the average aerosol size responsible for transmitting the COVID-19 virus," Dr. Posina told POPSUGAR.
Of course, you still need to wear the masks correctly, or you risk not being adequately protected. "It's not uncommon to see people with a loose-fitting mask or masks that don't fully cover the nose," said Amit Kumar, PhD, a researcher and scientist and CEO of Anixa Biosciences, a company that's working to develop therapies and vaccines focussed on critical unmet needs in infectious disease.
"If you're double masking, make sure the first mask completely covers the nose and mouth," Dr. Banerjee said. He also emphasised the importance of continuing to follow all other safety measures. "Even while wearing two masks, it is still essential to social distance and wash hands frequently and thoroughly. Double masking alone is not enough protection."