Are Two Masks Really Better Than One?

By Sarah Garcia - February 17, 2021

Throughout the coronavirus pandemic, science has continued to show us that wearing masks is one of the best ways to protect ourselves and those around us.

Recently, information has circulated about whether or not wearing two masks – or “double masking” – provides greater protection. Is it really necessary? The answer is not straightforward.

Dr. John Greene, chair of the Infectious Diseases Program at Moffitt Cancer Center
Dr. John Greene, chair of the Infectious Diseases Program at Moffitt Cancer Center

According to Dr. John Greene, chair of the Infectious Diseases Program at Moffitt Cancer Center, there’s nothing wrong with wearing two masks, but it isn’t necessary in everyday scenarios like going to the grocery store.

“It might prove beneficial in some cases, such as someone who is caring for a family member who has COVID-19,” said Greene. “And while the science has been tested in the lab, there is little data to prove the efficacy of two masks in real life.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the most important factors to consider are how well your mask fits, how well it filters the air and how many layers it’s made of.

Improve the protection your mask provides with these tips:

Choose a well fitted mask
Be sure your mask fits snugly against your face. If there are gaps, air containing respiratory droplets may escape in or out of the edges around the mask.

  • Masks with a nose wire (metal strip at the top) help achieve a snugger fit – be sure to pinch the metal to bring the edge of the mask flush against the nose and face.
  • A mask fitter or brace can be used with disposable or cloth masks to fit more snugly.

Choose a mask with multiple layers
A mask constructed of two or more layers of fabric will be more effective in keeping respiratory droplets from getting inside of or escaping your mask. Alternatively, you can wear one disposable mask beneath a cloth mask.

  • Avoid doubling up on disposable masks. Wearing more than one will not improve the fit.
  • Do not wear more than one KN95 mask or combine a KN95 mask with other types of masks.
  • Avoid masks with vents or valves, as these can allow particles to escape

Wear your mask properly
Your mask should be large enough to cover both your nose and mouth, and should go under the chin. The mask should not be too large so that it gaps and allows air to escape in or out around the edges.

  • Knotting and tucking the ear loops can help achieve a better fit. To do so, knot the ear loops at the area where they join the edge of the mask. Fold and tuck excess material beneath the edge of the mask.
  • Check out these 5 mistakes you may be making when wearing your mask.

What is a KN95 Mask?

KN95 masks are a type of filtering facemask respirator similar to the N95 masks used in the United States but commonly made in China. If you choose to wear a KN95 mask, look for one that meets the requirements set by the CDC National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) for respirators. Note that about 60% of KN95 masks in the U.S. are counterfeit and do not meet these standards. Do not wear a counterfeit mask.

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