Can wearing two masks really give you better protection against COVID?

In 2021, we've started seeing people wearing two facemasks on top of each other. Does this measure have any effect at all? Here are some answers.

Can wearing two masks really give you better protection against COVID?
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At the start of 2021, there is still as much talk and discussion about mouth-and-nose protection as there was last Spring. This time, however, it's not about whether wearing a mask can actually help protect us, and whether it should be fabric or FFP2. Nor is it about whether a mask can be reused. No, today, we are in fact doubling down on the debate. Which is it: one mask or two?

What does wearing two masks on top of each other actually do?

Many may have noticed at the inauguration of the US President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris that both were wearing two masks on top of each other. Complete exaggeration or sensible protective measure?

As it turns out, everyday masks can increase the protection of a surgical mask. Frank Drewnick from the Max Planck Institute for Chemistry in Mainz explains:

If you put something over it, for example a well-fitting everyday mask, it presses the surgical mask up against your face.

This is because, unlike FFP2 and some everyday masks, a surgical mask does not fit very tightly on the face. This means that although the wearer protects others, he himself can inhale particles and droplets through the air flowing in from the sides.

Therefore, it might be important to wear the fabric mask over the surgical mask! But make sure to double up smartly! If the medical mask is worn underneath, it cannot be guaranteed that it covers the mouth and nose correctly, thus providing sufficient protection.

Criticism from experts

However, these newly emerged protective measures also draw criticism from expert circles like Jana Schröder, a specialist in microbiology, virology and infection epidemiology. In an interview with RTL, she says:

Opinions differ on this topic. There is no reliable data on this. Of course, you have to make it as difficult as possible for the virus to reach the mouth. The double mask can help, but it has not been proven.