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COVID-19: Double Masking To Keep Mutant Variants At Bay, How To Properly Double Mask And Mask-Fitting Tips

Health officials around the country advise people to double mask amidst the fast-spreading nature of the new COVID variants during the ongoing second wave. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) had said the same in the month of February after a study revealed that wearing two masks provided more protection than one [1].


Benefits Of Double Masking

Double masking is nothing complex but the practice of wearing two masks with one over the other. While the N95 masks are the gold standard as they seal the face properly and filter 95 per cent of the particles, these masks have been reported to cause difficulty in breathing, inadequate oxygen supply and additionally, the cost range [2].

Double masking has been advised by public health specialists and the Centres for Disease Control (CDC) as an alternative to N95 masks and as an effective way to prevent exposure to the coronavirus [3].

Centre for Disease Control and Prevention recorded that an unknotted surgical mask can only block 56 per cent while a cloth mask blocks 51.4 cough particles. A knot and tuck surgical mask blocked 77 per cent. However, a combination of cloth and a surgical mask blocked cough particles up to 85.4 per cent.

Here are some important points to support that double masking can indeed reduce the transmission of the virus:

  • Single cloth masks tend to fit loosely, which can expose individuals to the virus. But when combined with surgical masks, they tend to much more efficient in preventing transmission.
  • According to CDC, wearing one mask, surgical or cloth, blocked about 40 per cent of the particles coming toward the head that was breathing in [4].
  • When a cloth mask was worn on top of a surgical mask, about 80 per cent were blocked.
  • A good fitting double mask has the potential to reduce exposure to aerosols containing the virus by 96 per cent [5].
  • Ensure that surgical and cloth masks in combination are worn tightly so that they are well fitted to the contours of the face to prevent leakage of air around the masks' edges [6].

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How To Properly Double Mask

The spike in the number of mutant variants of SARS-CoV-2 in the country would mean that wearing just a cloth mask will not give adequate protection against the COVID-19 infection. The use of the ‘double masking' method could create a stronger barrier against the deadly viral disease, according to the experts.

Here is how you can double mask yourself and protect yourself from respiratory illness [7].

  • Layer a cloth mask on top of a surgical mask - this helps the entire setup fit more snugly and eliminates gaps around the sides of the face or nose.
  • Make sure the fit is comfortable and doesn't have gaps.
  • Choose a cloth mask made of multiple layers of tightly woven, breathable fabric that includes a nose wire so that you may fit it properly around the nose area.
  • You can check for the mask's material by holding it up under a bright light source. If it blocks the light, then it's of good quality.
  • You can also use a mask brace, a device made from an elastic material. It fits over the masks and helps prevent air from escaping from the top and sides of the mask.

(image source: chicagotribune)

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Don’ts Of Double Masking

  • Do not use cloth masks with an exhalation valve or vent, as it can allow respiratory droplets to leak into or out of a mask [8].
  • Don't wear more than one disposable mask at one time.
  • Handle the mask only by its ear loops, cords or head straps and not the surface.
  • Do not wear a KN95 mask, a filtering face-piece respirator with any other mask.

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How To Do Knotted Ear-loops For Surgical Masks?

Surgical masks can be knotted, folded and then tucked at the ear loops for a better fit.

  • Fold the mask in half and in lengthwise.
  • Tie a knot with the elastic loops, as close as you can to the mask.
  • Bend the metal nose mould, so it fits the shape of your nose.
  • Now, you can see the knot will make the sides of the mask near the tied ear-loops a bit puffed.
  • Fold those puffed-out edges in a pleat so that it lays flat on your cheek.
  • Wear the mask and check whether it fits on your face properly; the fit should be snug.

For spectacle users: Find a mask that fits closely over your nose or has a nose wire to help reduce fogging. You can also try antifogging spray made for eyeglasses [9].

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Always wash your hands or use a hand sanitiser before putting on your mask and avoid touching the mask while you are wearing it.


On A Final Note…

Double masking is easy and helps a lot. You can make one for yourself in no time and leave the N95 respirators for health care workers. Make sure to test out your double mask at home first to make sure it fits and that your breathing and vision aren't affected.

Please be noted that wearing a mask or double masking is a precautionary measure against the Coronavirus and should not be viewed as a preventive shield. Continue practising social and physical distancing, sanitising and avoid going out and inviting people home to curb the spread of the viral infection.

Stay Home. Stay Safe. Wear A Mask.

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