Why you might want to wear a face shield instead of a mask

We know why face masks are needed. CDC guidelines say they are critical in places where social distancing is difficult. Face coverings are meant to stem the spread of COVID-19, particularly in cases where you, or someone you know could show no symptoms or are asymptomatic. Regardless, we think we speak for everyone when we say wearing face masks are a pain, particularly as we head into summer… which is why we’d like to talk about face shields.

A group of doctors thinks face shields could be a better solution than face masks, when it comes to protecting ourselves and others. The research, which was published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), posits that “Face shields, which can be quickly and affordably produced and distributed, should be included as part of strategies to safely and significantly reduce transmission in the community setting” (via Medicine Net). Shields are more practical than masks because they can be cleaned with soap and water, or regular disinfectants. They can be reused endlessly, and can keep people from touching their faces. Best of all, they are more comfortable.

A small, limited study shows face shields can protect users against the flu virus

There has been other research on face shields in the past. Self reports that in a 2014 Journal of Occupational and Environmental Hygiene study, researchers put a face shield on a robot, and had another robot 18 inches away spew the flu virus. The shield prevented the face shield-wielding robot from inhaling 96 percent of the virus. While a shield’s effectiveness depended on how big it was, the study indicated it could be considered an effective barrier. 

What worries scientists, however, is that there is no research to indicate whether the shield can protect those around you if you are asymptomatic. But the study’s researchers say that it will likely work, because every time you sneeze or cough, everything is “going forward, and it’s hitting a giant piece of plastic. It just physically can’t go through.”

Face shields offer benefits face masks do not

A New York City-based Business Insider writer tested out a face shield for two weeks, and touts the comfort versus sporting a hot, sweaty homemade face mask that needs to be cleaned frequently. She found it easier to do everyday tasks in the shield, including enjoying a drink. Plus, people can see your full facial expressions — an easy-to-wear design fits over a baseball cap.

If you choose to don a face shield instead of a face mask, you will be more protected than if you didn’t wear any face covering; that’s for sure. The best way to protect yourself in a high-risk situation is to wear both a face mask and a shield. Meanwhile, as one frontline doctor, New York emergency physician Robert Glatter tells Medicine Net, “what’s clear is that their success in hospital settings provides the basis for their utility in the community setting as we relax physical distancing going forward.”

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