Can Face Shields Replace Masks?

Can Face Shields Replace Masks?

Can Face Shields Replace Masks?


In an effort to protect against viral diseases, many people have begun to consider which face coverings are the most effective. While face masks have been shown to provide some protection against viruses, incorporating masks into daily life has proven to be a challenge for some. In these cases, the idea of a face shield can be more appealing.


Face shields typically consist of a clear, curved shield made of plexiglass or plastic that is attached to a headband or other headwear. In the medical field, face shields are often used to protect against harmful droplets and particles during procedures. Because they cover so much of the face, many have begun to consider these shields as an alternative to face masks.


Are Face Shields Effective Against Viruses


While face shields can prevent some droplets from coming into contact with the eyes, nose, and mouth of the wearer, they do not offer sufficient protection against airborne particles. Because there are large gaps around the sides and bottom of the shield, there is still a risk of inhaling harmful particles. 


In a 2014 study of the influenza virus, researchers found that while face shields blocked most of the initial particles of a cough, they were much less effective at blocking the particles that had dispersed in the air after the cough. Because of this, the study concluded that face shields were not sufficient on their own, but were most effective when used in conjunction with other protective equipment. Currently, the CDC advises that face shields do not offer sufficient protection on their own, and should not be used as a replacement for face masks.


When Should Face Shields Be Worn?


To best protect against viruses, face shields should be worn with a face mask underneath. When combined with masks, face shields can offer enhanced protection by protecting the full face, including the eyes, from droplets. Face shields can also be helpful for those who find it difficult to remember not to touch their face. In certain cases, such as when caring for a person who is hearing impaired, a face shield may be worn without a mask. However, in the majority of cases, face shields do not provide enough protection to be an acceptable alternative to face masks. 


Best Practices For Wearing a Face Shield


If you opt to include face protection shields in your PPE, it is best to maintain proper sanitization. Hands should be washed or sanitized before and after handling the face shield to avoid contamination. Reusable face shields should also be cleaned and disinfected after each use. When worn with a face mask underneath, a properly sanitized face shield can provide an extra layer of protection against viruses.

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