Disclaimer: At UPMC HealthBeat, we strive to provide the most up-to-date facts in our stories when we publish them. We also make updates to our content as information changes. However, education about COVID-19 can shift quickly based on new data, emerging variants, or other factors. The information in this story was accurate as of its publish date. We also encourage you to visit other reliable websites for updated information, including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and your state and local governments.
The COVID-19 pandemic has caused more than 100 million infections and millions of deaths worldwide. Those numbers include tens of millions of infections and hundreds of thousands of deaths in the United States.
Many different measures can help prevent the spread of COVID-19. Wearing a mask in public is one of the most important preventive actions you can take.
Wearing a facemask can help protect both you and others from COVID-19 spread. But what about double masking? Can that provide more protection?
What Is Double Masking?
Double masking is just what it sounds like: wearing one mask over another to provide an extra layer of protection.
Recently, some people have suggested that wearing two masks can better prevent COVID-19 spread.
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Can Double Masking Help Prevent COVID-19 Spread?
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently released a study on how improving mask fit may help prevent COVID-19 spread.
In the study, researchers measured whether two alternate mask-wearing methods could help limit COVID-19 spread compared to wearing just a single surgical mask:
- Wearing a cloth face covering over a surgical mask, i.e. double masking
- Knotting the ear loops of a surgical mask and tucking in and flattening the extra material close to the face
Both methods resulted in a better fitting mask. The CDC reported that both methods decreased the wearer’s exposure to potentially infectious aerosols by 95%.
Should You Double Mask to Protect Against COVID-19?
The CDC study analyzed how well wearing a cloth mask over a surgical mask could protect you. The study showed that this method of double masking could limit your exposure.
However, the study did not look into other methods of double masking, such as wearing two cloth masks. More data will be needed.
Also, wearing two disposable masks does not improve the fit, according to the CDC. You also should not wear any mask over an N95 mask.
Bottom line — it is important to do two things regarding a mask:
- Wear a mask, period. It protects both you and others. You should wear a mask in public places and when around people not from your household.
- Wear a mask (or double mask) that fits. A mask should fit snugly over your face, covering both your nose and mouth, while still allowing you to breathe.
How Can I Make My Mask Fit Better?
Your mask should fit snugly against your face, covering your nose and mouth. If there are gaps at the edges of your mask, air that contains aerosol droplets can escape — which also means air can get in.
According to the CDC, you also can get a mask with multiple layers. Masks with multiple layers can better prevent respiratory droplets from getting in or out.
The CDC also provides these recommendations for a better mask fit:
- Use a nose wire. Some masks come with a nose wire, which is a metal strip at the top of the mask. Squeeze the wire over your nose so the mask fits closer to your face and prevents air from leaking out the top. Nose wires also can help prevent eyeglass fogging.
- Layer up. Wear a cloth mask with multiple layers. Or double mask by wearing a cloth mask over a surgical mask. The cloth mask should push the inner edges of the surgical mask against your face.
- Knot and tuck. Knot the ear loops of your facemask where they join the edge of the mask. Then, fold and tuck excess material under the edge of the mask.
Wearing a mask that fits properly is one crucial preventive action you can take to help stop the spread of COVID-19.
For more information about COVID-19, visit UPMC.com/COVID19.
Headquartered in Pittsburgh, UPMC is a world-renowned health care provider and insurer. We operate 40 hospitals and 800 doctors’ offices and outpatient centers, with locations throughout Pennsylvania, Maryland, New York, West Virginia, and internationally. We employ 4,900 physicians, and we are leaders in clinical care, groundbreaking research, and treatment breakthroughs. U.S. News & World Report consistently ranks UPMC Presbyterian Shadyside as one of the nation’s best hospitals in many specialties and ranks UPMC Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh on its Honor Roll of America’s Best Children’s Hospitals. We are dedicated to providing Life Changing Medicine to our communities.