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The Quick and Dirty Guide to Double Masking

Two masks are better than one — if you wear them properly.

Masks are part of life now, no matter how badly your kids wish otherwise. The evidence is strong that wearing a mask not only protects others from what you’re potentially carrying, but it also reduces your own risk of getting COVID-19. If you do get sick, wearing a mask when you’re exposed to the coronavirus means you may be more likely to be asymptomatic or have mild illness. But what about wearing two masks? Is the double masking strategy a win-win?

Yes! The CDC announced on Wednesday, February 10 that double-masking may provide an extra high level of protection against the viral particles. But there are some caveats. Here’s your guide to wearing two masks.

Two masks are likely better than one.

Doubling up on masks is one of the best options for protecting yourself and others from COVID-19, according to a review in the journal Cell. The CDC agrees that double-masking — specifically, wearing a surgical mask underneath a cloth mask — may provide higher level of protection against the viral particles. If you’re looking for the safest possible option, this is the one for you.

Two cloth masks won’t cut it.

For maximum effect, layer a cloth mask and a surgical mask. The cloth mask improves fit to your face and helps stop the virus from getting through, and the surgical mask is electrostatically charged to repel the droplets and aerosols that carry the virus.

Some experts recommend wearing the surgical mask on the outside so it doesn’t get nasty by being near your mouth and can be reused for longer. However, others recommend wearing the surgical mask on the inside so the cloth mask can pin it to your face for better fit. Decide which factor is more important to you and take your pick.

Two masks aren’t necessary in a lot of circumstances. 

When you’re outside, one is enough. Transmission is less likely in the great outdoors, so you don’t need a double duty mask. Save the double masking for situations with higher risk, like shopping indoors at a grocery store.

When it comes to kids, any mask is better than none.

Luckily, kids are generally at lower risk of getting severely ill from COVID-19. So, fighting two masks onto them shouldn’t be your highest concern. If your kid is willing to wear two, then by all means go for it. But if your child is going to tear at the masks or adjust them constantly or take both off because they’re uncomfortable and make breathing difficult, double masking will do more harm than good.

The best kind of mask is one that fits well.

Fit is key, especially with children’s tiny faces. Masks that tie around the back of the head offer more options for adjustment. Make sure the mask includes at least two layers of tightly woven fabric.

And there’s another option to double masking, especially for kids.

Just as effective as double masking is using a cloth mask with two tightly woven layers and a filter in between. The filter fulfills the same role as the surgical mask: repelling coronavirus particles. Filters are made out of materials like vacuum bags, and you can find them easily online.

Masks, so far, work against new variants too.

The new coronavirus variants aren’t any more adept at getting through masks. But it’s more important than ever to wear them to stem the spread of the variants, some of which are more transmissible and potentially more deadly.