While the rapid spread of COVID-19 has left us unsure of what’s next, there has been much scientific research on how we can protect ourselves and others to decrease the risk of contracting the virus: by wearing face shields and masks. But the question we often get asked is, “Are face shields effective?”
The short answer: Yes – but in a different way than masks. We know that coronavirus spreads mainly through airborne, virus-laden droplets from a person sneezing, coughing, or talking. That means that you’ll want to protect yourself and others around you from these airborne, potentially contaminant particles – which is why face protection is necessary. Face shields protect you from inhaling airborne, virus-contaminant droplets; face masks protect other people from your airborne droplets.
Advantages of face shields
When the COVID-19 pandemic shut down life as we knew it back in March, none of us had foreseen that months later we would still be questioning ways of protecting ourselves and those around us from the virus. This protection shows up economically, emotionally, and of course, physically. Businesses have changed their models to accommodate to their own sustainability and safety of their employees and customers. Schools have shifted to either a virtual model, or requiring students and teachers to wear personal protective equipment during the day. It’s not uncommon to be out in public now and see a variety of face coverings: masks, shields, or both.
While wearing both a face shield and a mask is the best chance to protect yourself from the virus, there are benefits that you’ll find with a face shield, such as:
- They cover your entire face. Research shows that virus-laden droplets can contaminate individuals if entered through the eyes, not just the nose and mouth.
- They can be worn for longer periods of time. Face masks can get irritating after a while, and it can be tempting to temporarily remove them. This is especially true with children, who can have a lower tolerance for discomfort.
- You’re less likely to touch your face when wearing a face shield, preventing the spread of germs that can occur when wearing just a mask.
Who Should Wear Face Shields?
Really, everyone would benefit from wearing face shields in public. Those in customer service will find it much easier to communicate at work, but face shields are also convenient for athletes, musicians, fitness instructors, and of course, those in medical field settings such as hospitals, dental care centers, and nursing homes.
Face shields are worn effectively anywhere, but especially in medical industries, schools, and consumer businesses. Hair salons, restaurants, and coffee shops are also great examples, where there is consistent customer contact and conversation, as well as with transportation workers and correctional and detention center staff.