The COVID-19 pandemic has made us more aware of our respiratory habits. Wearing a face mask was something you only saw at hospitals or in construction sites, and you usually associated this with illness or something very serious. Now, it’s our new normal, and we’re practically experts about face masks by now.
But, this difficult and uncertain time has come with lots of myths and speculation, and sometimes it’s hard to tell what’s true and what isn’t. Whether it is about the virus itself, or about which face masks work best, certain information is still confusing to many people. In this article, we’ll tackle the question of whether wearing two masks is safer than wearing one.
The difference between the most popular face masks
N95 masks are also considered to be respirators. They are part of the classification of respirators by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, or NIOSH. This institute is in charge of regulating and testing respirators for their use in work settings in the United States, while also classifying them according to characteristics like resistance to oil and minimum particulate filtration efficacy.
N95 respirators are not resistant to oil and can filter out at least 95% of all airborne particles. This makes them the best mask for non-oil based particles like smoke, dust, or viruses like the flu or the coronavirus. It has been the best mask for virus protection since the pandemic began, with great antiviral properties.
For this reason, this face mask has become scarce around the world, and it’s being prioritized for healthcare workers and first responders. Anyone who uses these face masks is staying protected, and some of the most popular models include 3M N95 masks like 3M 8210 and 3M 8511.
- Surgical masks
Surgical masks, also known as regular or medical face masks, are a loose-fitting disposable face mask. Unlike N95 masks, they are not tightly fitted to the face, so there’s a possibility for leakage. They can be worn with face shields to increase virus protection.
It acts primarily as a physical barrier between the wearer and the splashes, splatters, sprays, and droplets of other people’s respiratory secretions, preventing them from reaching the wearer’s nose or mouth. As a filter, they only work with very large particles, not being able to trap smaller ones, like viruses.
Surgical masks are used in healthcare settings mostly to prevent the wearer from releasing particles into the air. For example, when a surgeon is operating and they don’t want to contaminate the wound, or when treating immunocompromised patients who are at higher risk of getting severe infections.
- Reusable cloth masks
Cloth face masks are the only type of reusable face mask used today for protection against COVID-19. They are intended to only prevent the release of droplets from the wearer’s nose and mouth, therefore only work to prevent the spread by the wearer, but they don’t filter out any particles.
This mask was the source of controversy at the beginning of the pandemic since experts said they weren’t effective for virus protection. But, for several months now, these have been the main item for protection among the general public, after experts finally decided that they did have activity in antiviral protection in public settings.
Although they’re not the most effective for virus protection, these are the recommended face masks to be used by the general public in situations where face covering is needed. The use of medical-grade masks should be left for healthcare workers and first responders.
Are two face masks safer than one?
So, the answer to this question depends on the type of face mask we’re talking about. When it comes to medical-grade face masks, like surgical masks or N95 masks, there’s no evidence that suggests doubling up is safer than wearing just one, and no authority has recommended to do this. These face masks are scarce, and shortages are affecting healthcare workers around the world, including the USA, so doubling up on them shouldn’t be done.
When it comes to reusable cloth masks, which are the ones recommended to be used by the general public, a double layer of fabric is always the recommended amount for virus protection. So, whether it’s using two individual face masks, or just doubling up on the fabric when making one, the more layers of fabric the better, but always taking into consideration the breathability of the mask.
COVID-19: why face masks are important
COVID-19 is a new disease caused by a previously unknown species of coronaviruses, which has been named SARS-CoV-2. This new virus, like other coronaviruses, is a respiratory virus that, even though in the majority of the cases causes a very mild flu-like respiratory infection and can be asymptomatic in many cases, can be very severe in certain high-risk people.
Even though the size of the percentage of cases in which a severe case of COVID-19 is developed is relatively small, when too many people are infected at once, this percentage becomes more important. Plus, if healthcare centers collapse and become overwhelmed, more people will suffer complications and die. That’s why it’s everyone’s responsibility to stay protected, even kids, with the proper respiratory equipment, so that the most vulnerable people in our communities are safe.
If you’re looking for protective equipment, including KN95 masks, N95 masks, or other types of reusable or disposable face masks, there are plenty of options for sale online to buy in bulk or wholesale. The important thing is to stay protected always, following the authorities’ guidelines and recommendations.