How do Face Shields offer protection from Coronavirus?

Faceguard USA Face Shield

What are face shields?

Face shields or a face guard are the latest protection measure against the spread of the novel coronavirus. They are easily adjustable and can be worn in any public setting due to their discreet appearance. Their goal is to protect against potential exposure to respiratory droplets that spread from an infected person through coughing, sneezing, or talking. If you are wondering how they might differ from your regular face mask, you are not alone. Read on to discover the main differences between face shields and face masks, and how to pick the right one. 

Reporting in the Journal of the American Medical Association, experts led by Dr. Eli Perencevich, of the university's department of internal medicine, and the Iowa City VA Health Care System, said: "In a simulation study, face shields were shown to reduce immediate viral exposure by 96% when worn by a simulated health care worker within 18 inches of a cough."

Touch your face no more!

They come in different styles, designs and materials, but their most attractive feature is that they prevent you from touching your face –a constant struggle that comes along with wearing face masks. Because face shields are not directly in contact with your skin, they remain in place through your daily activities. This means no annoying re-adjusting or manipulating, therefore providing a far lower risk of infection due to misuse. How cool is that?

Dr. Robert Glatter, on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic in his role as emergency physician at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City: "Their success in hospital settings provides the basis for their utility in the community setting as we relax physical distancing going forward."

See: Why should every person have a face shield? 

OK, that sounds safer. But how else do face guards differ from face masks?

  • Comfort. Especially for people with ongoing breathing problems, using a face mask for prolonged periods of time may turn out to be very uncomfortable. With shields, you will not even remember you have something on since it’s not directly over your skin. Plus, some even come with a foamy forehead support for extra comfort! 
  • No itch to scratch. Without the constant rush of cloth against your skin, there will literally be no itch left to scratch. Dr. James Cherry, a UCLA infectious diseases expert says: “Touching the mask screws up everything (...) the masks itch, so they’re touching them all the time. Then they rub their eyes...” This is important because in a recent study out of Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, researchers found that the coronavirus can be transmitted through the eyes.
  • No deterioration by washing. It’s recommended to wash a cloth face covering after each use or at least daily with hot water and drying on a hot cycle. But if this is not possible and you must rewear a used face covering, you should wash your hands immediately after putting it back on and avoid touching your face. But not so many people do this. Face shields, on the other hand, are usually made from materials that can be easily cleaned with soap and water, without losing their effectiveness.
  • Endlessly reusable. Because they are durable and easy to clean, they become endlessly reusable. Unless it gets damaged or lost, you will only need one.
  • Easier communication. Unlike masks, face shields do not cover the immediate opening of the mouth, making it easier to communicate and read facial expressions without having to raise your voice. Because of its transparent quality, they make it possible for the hearing impaired to read your lips. Plus, we get to share smiles. Isn’t that lovely? Yay for real human interactions!
  • Full coverage. Like face masks, face shields cover your mouth and nose, but ALSO your eyes and earsthe four main sites of infection in the face. Although some professionals differ in whereas the virus can or cannot be transmitted through the ears, why expose yourself when you can be fully covered with a single piece all at once?

So, how do I choose my face shield?

The most important design consideration is coverage. Make sure that the shield you choose covers your entire mouth, nose, eyes and ears and goes below your chin. If it does, then it will most likely be FDA authorized since it complies with CDC recommendations.

Michael Edmond, an infectious diseases physician and hospital epidemiologist in Iowa City says: "The shield should extend below the chin vertically and to the ears on the periphery. In addition, there should be no gaps that would allow droplets to reach the face (...) Some 3D-printed designs have a gap between the forehead and the front of the shield that is not optimal." 

Besides the coverage consideration, another key factor should be its adjustable quality. It’s important to find a shield with an easy adjusting function. If you find yourself in the need to constantly re-adjust your facial covering, what’s the point of even using one? Your safety comes first, and that includes being able to carry on your daily activities without having the need to constantly touch and reposition your protective gear.

See: Optimal face shields for kids and adults 

Bottom line. 

Nothing replaces social distancing and washing hands to stay safe. The 6 feet distance and constant washing of hands are by far the two most successful and effective ways to avoid spread. But if you do decide to go for face shields, make sure that it provides you with full coverage. It doesn’t hurt to mention that this is something you will be using on the daily, so finding one that provides comfort is key.

If you decide to wear a face shield or face mask, it ultimately depends on what your public environment is like, and how much ease and practicality you wish to enjoy during these uncertain times. While there’s no ultimate cure to the virus yet, we might as well make the best with what we have now.

How safer would you feel when going out to eat without having to remove your protective gear? How long ago did you share a smile with a stranger? How long ago did you feel a little more at peace?

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