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Coronavirus fact check: Can wearing two masks guarantee better protection than one?

Masks work as the best form of protection against coronavirus and other easily transmissible respiratory germs.

There are enough studies to prove that using a mask can not just protect the spread of germs from an infected person, but also protect healthy people from catching it.

Considering their effectiveness, there has also been a strange trend which has been catching on- double or triple masking.

To add another level of ‘protection’, many are also opting to choose to don a face shield over a face mask.

In countries like the USA, where cases continue to surge, the trend of double masking has quickly caught on. President-elect Joe Biden, sportspersons and many experts have been spotted wearing one. Many in India, especially ones using homemade masks are opting to use this feature as a way to safeguard themselves.

Theoretically, two is better than one- which may make many think double or triple masking is a good choice.

But, the main question remains- is using more than one mask helpful to safeguard against the novel coronavirus?

Should you really be wearing more than one mask right now?

From a medical perspective, using more than one mask works to create a more rigid barrier for germs and viruses to creep in. It will also do a better job in preventing the spread of viruses, if you are a carrier for the infection, providing ample protection.

However, while many feel that double protection will cut down the risk of transmission from a sick to a healthy person, some experts, on the contrary, suggest that wearing one mask over the other can lead the respiratory droplets to get ‘trapped’ between the two layers.

Wearing more than one mask also means that a mask-wearer should be doubly diligent about cleaning and sanitizing masks.

Aren’t more layers the better option?

Current health guidelines suggest that people choose a mask which contains at least 2-3 layers of fabric that can fit and cover your face well.

While layers are always a preferred option, the objective can be simply achieved by using a good quality mask- that has multiple layers in it. Having to use 2 or 3 masks, in the hopes that it will add layers won’t really serve better protection.

At the same time, do remember that most of the masks under offering right now carry similar rates of effectiveness-while a surgical mask is good for general use, N95, which offers more protection is suitable for ones on the direct line of duty. Thus, because both N95 and surgical masks are pretty effective on their own, thinking that combining the two will add more protection won’t necessarily work.

Secondly, what one needs to know is that wearing additional masks can suffocate you, and lead to additional woes.

All effective masks- be it surgical or N95 masks have been designed to fit snugly around the face which ensures that the nose and the mouth are well-covered. Adding layers, or additional masks will make it altogether more for you to get fresh air to breathe. This is for the same reason, masks which have exhalation vents aren’t recommended for use.

Who should be making use of this option?

As long as you secure a good quality mask which is made up of multiple layers and fits you well, there’s no need of using donning additional masks. That being said, taking the precautionary step may not be entirely without benefits.

The only people who should consider using more masks than one is if you are in a high-risk place are a healthcare worker who faces high exposure or if you experience trouble finding a good quality mask which doesn’t fit you good.

Hoarding, or using more masks than you actually need may also account to piling of a neccessary commodity in times of a grave pandemic as such.

If you avoid stepping out unneccessarily, practice social distancing and wear a mask every time, using just a single mask is more than enough. Just remember to make it correctly.

What can you do to make your mask for effective for use?

As many experts now point out, for people who are still interested in doubling up masks, a good alternative to choose is to add a mesh-like outer layer to a cloth or homemade mask, which will help create a ‘tighter’ seal to stop germs from going through.

The key is to opt for multi-layers masks, rather than toying with additional masks one on top of the other.

Read here to know what is the best type of mask for you.

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