How to Properly Double a Mask

key takeaways

  • Double masking helps prevent the spread of Omicron if done safely.
  • Wearing a cloth mask over a surgical mask stopped the spread of cough particles 30% better than either mask alone.
  • A second mask should not be worn on the N95. This can block the ventilator and cause difficulty breathing.

With Omicron still surging, it’s important to double down on COVID-19 protection. In some cases, this may involve double masking: wearing one mask on top of the other.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), you can only double up on a mask by wearing a cloth mask over a surgical mask. The best types to use include three-ply cloth masks and three-ply disposable surgical masks.

In addition to providing multiple layers of protection, cloth masks also cover gaps around the mouth and nose that are not tightly covered by the surgical mask, where respiratory droplets may escape. To prevent the spread of COVID-19, your mask should fit snugly against your skin or facial hair.

Robert L. Quigley, MD, senior vice president and global medical director of International SOS, told VigorTip that wearing two masks allows for higher filtration and a better fit. “Adding layers reduces your exposure to respiratory droplets that are released by an infected person coughing in your space and contain the virus,” he said.

A CDC study published in February 2021 found that when worn alone, cloth masks blocked 51% of cough particles and disposable masks blocked 56%. When worn together, masks block more than 85% of cough particles.

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what not to do

The CDC recommends not using two disposable surgical masks for double covering. They’re not designed to fit snugly against your face, and combining the two won’t help close any gaps.

The CDC added that you will never wear another mask on an N95. This can block the respirator and make it difficult to breathe. The N95 alone is enough to protect you.

If you have a medical condition that makes breathing difficult, respirators such as KN95s and N95s may not be the right choice.

“If you’re someone who has trouble breathing, a dual mask might be a better option,” Quigley said.

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Test the fit of your mask

It’s a good idea to test your double-shading method at home to make sure it fits and your breathing and vision are not affected.

Dr. Jyotsna Shah, president and laboratory director of testing company IGeneX, recommends a simple method of covering your mouth with your hands and breathing in a mask.

“If you feel any air is escaping, tighten your nose bridge and ear loops, or find a cloth mask that fits better,” Shah told VigorTip.

Quigley also recommends a breath test.

“If the mask pulls toward your face when you take a deep breath, that’s the appropriate way to wear it,” he said. “Ensuring you can breathe clearly with the mask on also helps ensure your mask fits. Breathing with the mask on Difficulty can cause movement, leaving gaps.”

what does this mean to you

In addition to wearing an N95, the safest way to protect yourself and others from COVID-19 is to wear a cloth mask over a surgical mask.

The information in this article is current as of the date listed, which means that you may have updated information as you read this article. For the latest updates on COVID-19, visit our Coronavirus news page.