Double masking amid virulent variants of coronavirus – here’s all you need to know

As new and more dangerous variants of coronavirus continue to spread across the world, people are now adopting the practice of double masking. While there hasn’t been any substantial scientific proof behind it, double masks can provide better protection in the fight against the virus.

Almost a year after when the world was changed forever due to a mighty pathogen that has till now claimed millions of lives, suddenly experts and scientists have once again started talking about safety precautions. This time, it is all about the way we mask. As the human race faces a bigger challenge of new variants of coronavirus across the world, scientists have been into huddles to contemplate new ways of keeping the people safe.

Recently, US President Joe Biden and Vice-President Kamala Harris along with other officials were spotted wearing double masks covering their faces. Since then, public discourse and social media have been constantly discussing the need for double masking. As of now, none of the countries has made double masking a mandatory precaution to be followed neither is it recommended by any disease control or health agency.

Science behind wearing masks

When the pandemic began to engulf the world, wearing masks along with maintaining social distancing were the two viable options present in front of us. It’s been a year now, and masks are still recommended by doctors and experts because they simply stop the transmission of the virus along with keeping a healthy person guarded against the infection.

COVID-19 virus mostly spreads through droplets that may get dispersed into the air from an infected person while sneezing, coughing, or even talking. That is why masks are essentially important in tackling the spread of the contagious virus. At the least, a mask with two layers should be used and a third extra layer should also be added over it. The layer which has direct contact with the face should be hydrophilic which means, it should absorb small water droplets.

Is double masking better than a single mask?

Although doctors do not advise double masking as there is a lack of studies that suggests double masking is better than wearing just a single mask. In fact, doctors are emphasising that masks which are made up of two to three tight layers of breathable material with inner filter pockets fit properly on the face without leaving any sort of gaps.

But with the onset of a more virulent version of viruses, people have been cautiously wearing two masks. Double masking is only applicable where the first mask is porous enough to not guard against the virus. Also, medical professionals use double masking to safeguard and preserve the quality of their face-cover.

Experts’ advice – The need for double masking

Dr. Anthony Fauci who is medical advisor to US President Joe Biden has affirmed that double masking increases layering which in fact reduces porosity of the masks. But the US Centre for Disease Control has not yet released any advisory regarding double masking. 

Other than that, a report published in the journal Med claimed that wearing at least high-quality surgical masks with a minimum of two layers is important for safety. Other experts have also reiterated that double masking does provide better protection against the virus.

Dr. Anthony Fauci wearing double masks

However, experts who have been vouching for double masking say that it can be done in those places where social distancing is literally not possible like in flights and crowded markets. Another study published in the journal ‘Matter’ in July last year has suggested that double masking can increase the protection level by 50-75 percent.

At present, N95 masks are the best masks in providing protection against the virus. With that, the Duke University research cites that wearing disposable masks made with plastic derived polypropylene is another option after N95 masks. In fact, France and Germany have already made it compulsory to wear only medical grade or surgical masks in public places.

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