Should You Wear Two Masks During the COVID-19 Pandemic?
As variants of the COVID-19 virus start to appear in the United States, many wonder what they can do to better protect themselves from catching COVID. There is concern that these variants may be spreading quicker, causing more people to catch the virus. Many are wondering if they can better protect themselves by doubling up on face masks.
Face masks are one of the best ways to protect yourself and others. Following recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), Ochsner advises all people ages 2 and older to wear a face mask when outside your home and in public spaces.
What type of face-covering should you wear?
When choosing a mask, experts agree that the best mask on the market is the N95 respirator. These respirators are specialized masks made from multiple layers of nonwoven fabric that filter out at least 95% of particles above .3 microns, which are about the size of germs spread from coughing or sneezing. However, even though we all may want to run out and buy an N95 mask, we must reserve these masks for our frontline healthcare workers and medical first responders caring for COVID patients day in and day out.
Because N95 masks are in high demand and should be reserved for our healthcare workers, you need to be smart when choosing what mask to wear. Currently, the CDC recommends wearing a mask with at least two layers of fabric, covers your mouth and nose and fits snuggly to your face. Many masks on the market offer these options and can provide adequate protection against COVID-19 and any variants that may come about. Alternatively, you could also find a cloth mask with a pocket inside to add a filter material, like ones found in vacuums. Other options include finding masks that tie behind your head rather than ones with loopholes that go around the ear. This will allow you to customize your mask to the perfect tightness that fits your face snuggly.
The CDC has recently performed experiments that highlight the importance of good fit to maximize mask performance. If your mask follows the CDC’s guidelines of having multiple layers and fits snuggly to your face, it is unnecessary to wear numerous masks. It is also essential to keep in mind that you should always be aware of your ability to breathe with any mask you wear. You never want to restrict your breathing or make it difficult to breathe.
In addition to mask-wearing, the best way to stay healthy and keep people safe is to stay home. Utilize delivery/pickup services for essential errands or limit them as much as possible. Continue to practice social distancing, even while wearing masks. Continue to wash your hands or use a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol, often. Additionally, vaccination will play a broader role beyond preventing COVID-19 infections. When the COVID-19 vaccine becomes available to you, Ochsner encourages all to receive the vaccine. Until most of the United States has been vaccinated and we reach herd immunity, we will need to continue to practice social distancing, handwashing and wearing masks. These are the best ways to reduce your chance of being exposed to or spreading the virus until we end this pandemic.
Learn more about COVID-19: Ochsner.org/coronavirus.
The information in this blog post is accurate at the time of publication. However, as the situation surrounding COVID-19 continues to change, it's possible that information has changed since being published. While Ochsner Health is trying to keep our blog posts as up-to-date as possible, we also encourage readers to stay informed on news and recommendations by using the CDC website.