Surgical face masks appear to be one of the best ways to stop the spread of respiratory droplets. They can also be problematic when it comes to a snug fit, with wearers often noticing gaps on the side of their faces.
Enter a simple hack to improve the fit.
Two viral videos from two dentists demonstrating the same technique during the coronavirus pandemic have received millions of views online.
Dr. Olivia Cui, a dentist in suburban Calgary, Alberta, posted her tutorial on TikTok:
Dr. Rabeeh Bahrampourian, a dentist New South Wales, Australia, showed the hack on YouTube:
Here’s what you need to do:
- Start with clean hands — always wash them before handling a new mask (and after taking off a used one).
- Fold the mask in half, lengthwise, so that the bottom and top strip are edge-to-edge.
- Take one ear loop and make a knot as close as possible to the corners of the mask; repeat on the other side.
- Unfold the mask and adapt the flexible nose bridge to your nose. You will see that the mask puffs out more than before.
- Fold in the corners and put on your better-fitting mask. Adjust as needed.
A recent study from Duke University measuring the efficacy of 14 types of masks and face coverings found disposable surgical masks worked well to block respiratory particles emitted when people talk.
Dr. Lou Ann Bruno-Murtha, division chief of infectious diseases at Cambridge Health Alliance in Cambridge, Massachusetts, was a fan of the fit-adjusting hack.
“It’s a thumbs up. I’m going to share it with my staff,” she told TODAY. “People are going to like this technique because it definitely closes the gaps… (and) anything that closes gaps is going to be better.”
That’s because respiratory droplets produced when someone coughs or sneezes while wearing a looser-fitting mask could escape through those openings and pose a risk to somebody who was very close, Bruno-Murtha noted.
She pointed out that even though many people call this type of face covering a surgical mask, the correct terminology for it is a procedure mask. There are subtle differences between the two.
The hack to improve the fit may be especially helpful for people with smaller faces, including children.
It still won't provide as much protection as an N95 respirator, which is not needed outside of healthcare settings, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Bruno-Murtha advised only using the technique on a clean mask, because a worn one may be contaminated with droplets, which can then contaminate your hands when you’re tying the loops or otherwise handling it.
“Having this technique is going to be awesome,” she said. “I think the wearer feels more secure as well having it close to their face.”