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Masks have been providing protection for countless people since the start of the pandemic, but could we be doing more with them? Anthony Fauci, MD, chief medical adviser to the White House, just endorsed a new way of protecting yourself from COVID when it comes to wearing masks: Fauci said you should be wearing two masks, also known as "double-masking." Read on to find out why you should take his recommendation seriously, and for more from the infectious disease expert, Dr. Fauci Just Warned of These "Disturbing" Long COVID Symptoms.
Fauci said it's "common sense" that double-masking is more effective.
During a Jan. 25 interview on Today, Fauci discussed an emerging practice called "double-masking," which is where people wear two masks at once instead of just one. "If you have a physical covering with one layer, you put another layer on," Fauci said. "It just makes common sense that it likely would be more effective."
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) also encourages wearing more than one layer, although it doesn't specifically say you need to double-mask to do so. "Masks with at least two layers of fabric are most likely to reduce the spread of COVID-19 when they are widely used by people in public settings," the CDC says. And for masks you should be avoiding, This One Type of Face Mask Is "Unacceptable," Warns the Mayo Clinic.
Experts say double-masking could be as protective as an N-95 mask.
According to the CDC, an N-95 mask can "filter out at least 95 percent of particles in the air, including large and small particles." This makes them more effective than regular face masks, as the latter only offer "barrier protection," according to the agency. Unfortunately, most N-95 masks are reserved for healthcare workers, which means that the general public is left to use less protective face masks. However, licensed physician Dave Hnida, DO, told CBSN Denver that double-masking may be the answer to similar protection.
"Specifically what we're saying is that two masks may actually equal the protection you would get from N-95 masks, which is considered the best mask there is short of a complete respirator-type unit," Hnida said. "The reason for that is you do wind up getting more filtration of viral particles—it becomes more of an obstacle course for the viral particle to make its way from the air into your nose and throat and then into your lungs." And for more up-to-date information, sign up for our daily newsletter.
The best form of double-masking is a cloth mask on top of a surgical mask.
Recent commentary published Jan. 15 in Med laid out the science behind mask-wearing. Based on previous research the authors conducted on the effectiveness of 10 different types of face coverings, they recommend double-masking for "maximal protection." According to the researchers, the most effective form of protection is wearing a "cloth mask tightly on top of a surgical mask where the surgical mask acts as a filter and the cloth mask provides an additional layer of filtration while improving the fit." And for more essential mask guidance, The CDC Warns Against Using These 6 Face Masks.
You shouldn't layer up too many masks, however.
Don't get out of hand when it comes to layering up masks. Most experts say double-masking is a good place to start and stop, as layering on any more masks runs the "risk of making it too hard to breathe," Linsey Marr, PhD, an expert in virus transmission at Virginia Tech, told The New York Times. It would be rare, however, to reach that extreme point by layering only two masks, she clarified. And for more on staying safe from coronavirus, discover The One Thing You Can Stop Doing to Avoid COVID, CDC Says.