Double-masking can create ‘false sense of protection’: doctor

KN95 and N95 face masks

Dr Scott Segal, MD and chair of anesthesiology at Wake Forest Baptist Health in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, agreed, telling Health: "Wearing two masks might be a reasonable idea if the filtration capability of the masks isn't very strong".

Other countries, such as Germany and Austria, have made it mandatory to wear medical-grade masks while using public transport and while in shops.

CDC data shows that a two-layer cloth masks blocks 50 to 70% of fine droplets and particles in addition to limiting the forward spread of those particles. "Wet masks can be hard to breathe through and are less effective than dry masks", the CDC says. "We're learning as we go", said Levine.

When asked about double-masking earlier this week, Manitoba's acting deputy chief public health officer, said the province isn't changing its current recommendations, which is to wear a non-medical face mask with at least two layers. And how about the medical-grade N95 face coverings?

Fears about this strain gaining more traction in the US, in addition to fears about the Brazilian, South African, and "Bay Area" strains that have been detected, have experts trying to raise alarm bells about how people should be doing more to protect themselves than ever before when they are in public spaces. But now, as new, more contagious variants of Covid-19 continue to spread across the world, many people are stepping away from cloth masks and opting for sturdier surgical or N95 masks.

Once it's confirmed that the variant is definitely more transmissible, I would definitely double the distance to 12 feet if I wasn't wearing a mask.

When looking to double up, he suggests people use two different types of materials - e.g. wearing a surgeon's procedure mask, or three-layer disposable mask, with a cotton mask on top. Although, US Centre for Disease Control (CDC) has not yet recommended double masking.

How much protection do masks offer?

Questions about how to effectively wear a mask have resurged since new COVID-19 variants began appearing across the globe.

She said one cloth mask refers to two or three layers.

Wearing your face shield with your mask can help increase your protection without the heat and suffocating feeling you may have with two masks on.

Dr. Bryski says we should standardize wearing face masks every time we leave our home and suggests carrying several so that they can be replaced if they become soiled.

So a proper-fitting single mask would be better than a doubled-down approach if gaps are still there.

As people look for ways to better protect themselves and others, double masking has emerged as one strategy. So, when we wear it, we should wear it well, always remembering that death and life are in the power of a mask.

"If you have a face mask that's thin, flimsy, falling apart, frayed, or if you put it up to a light and you see light coming through it, it might be helpful to wear another one on top of it", Dr Abisola Olulade, MD, a family medicine physician told Refinery29. But when wearing a cloth mask, he plans to start doubling up.

"This idea of double-masking is something I've been doing for months now", said Timothy Sly, an epidemiologist and professor emeritus at Ryerson University's school of public health.

Ordinary lockdown measures proved insufficient to stop the spread of the United Kingdom variant, known as B.1.1.7, which initial data suggests is 50 to 70 percent more transmissible than the original strains of the coronavirus.

Even a brief interaction, like walking by someone on a sidewalk, could be enough to transmit more contagious forms of the virus, Barr says, though the exact amount of time is yet to be determined.

"It depends on how long the virus is in the air", he said.

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