Face mask fit hacks: Improving the fit of KN95 masks and surgical masks with fit alteration techniques.
INTRODUCTION: During the course of the COVID-19 pandemic, there have been suggestions that various techniques could be employed to improve the fit and, therefore, the effectiveness of face masks. It is well recognized that improving fit tends to improve mask effectiveness, but whether these fit modifiers are reliable remains unexplored. In this study, we assess a range of common "fit hacks" to determine their ability to improve mask performance. METHODS: Between July and September 2020, qualitative fit testing was performed in an indoor living space. We used quantitative fit testing to assess the fit of both surgical masks and KN95 masks, with and without 'fit hacks', on four participants. Seven fit hacks were evaluated to assess impact on fit. Additionally, one participant applied each fit hack multiple times to assess how reliable hacks were when reapplied. A convenience of four participants took part in the study, three females and one male with a head circumference range of 54 to 60 centimetres. RESULTS AND DISCUSSION: The use of pantyhose, tape, and rubber bands were effective for most participants. A pantyhose overlayer was observed to be the most effective hack. High degrees of variation were noted between participants. However, little variation was noted within participants, with hacks generally showing similar benefit each time they were applied on a single participant. An inspection of the fit hacks once applied showed that individual facial features may have a significant impact on fit, especially the nose bridge. CONCLUSIONS: Fit hacks can be used to effectively improve the fit of surgical and KN95 masks, enhancing the protection provided to the wearer. However, many of the most effective hacks are very uncomfortable and unlikely to be tolerated for extended periods of time. The development of effective fit-improvement solutions remains a critical issue in need of further development.