04.12.2022

If wearing a face mask makes you feel claustrophobic

But as face masks become mandatory in shops, on public transport and in private hire taxis, and as restaurants and bars re-open, we’re seeing an alternative crop up.

And that’s the humble face shield. Clunky? Yes. Stylish? Definitely not. But effective in slowing the spread of Coronavirus? We thought we’d take a deep dive…

We’ve been doing the whole face mask thing for months now, making our own Coronavirus face coverings from bandanas and spare hair ties, or searching high and low for where to buy face masks that look stylish (kinda) and do a good job.

What is a face shield?

A face shield is a face mask alternative which shields the wearer’s face with a curved sheet of plastic. They’re usually fitted on a headband which fits around the head.

They are, for the most part, more comfortable, less claustrophobic and easier to clean than their fabric counterparts. And they’re reusable.

Are face visors better than masks for Coronavirus?

There are a few downsides when it comes to wearing face masks. Not only are they uncomfortable, but if they aren’t applied and taken off with clean hands, you could run the risk of spreading Coronavirus rather than protecting yourself from it. This isn’t such a risk with a face visor, so if you base it on that evidence alone then yes. They are.

In fact, Eli Perencevich, M.D, a professor of internal medicine and epidemiology at the University of Iowa Carver College of Medicine in America told Self magazine: “We feel face shields are far more effective.” And there is research to back his thinking up. A 2014 study featured in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Hygiene showed that when face shields were placed on “breathing” robots, and secondary robots located 18 inches away “coughed out” the flu virus, the shield preventing the robot from inhaling up to 96% of the virus. Further research, where the droplets were varied in size, indicated that face shields can protect you from other people’s germs.

Of course, face shields have open sides and an open bottom, which does make some people skeptical. But research suggests that these openings might not actually pose too much of a problem, namely because Coronavirus usually spreads via large droplets which are pulled down by gravity before they have travelled six feet. Shields prevent viruses from hitting another person’s face, who is close by, before they fall – since droplets are usually expelled at a 90 degree angle and don’t tend to linger.

Can face shields protect other people from your germs?

This is where the research gets a little thin. There aren’t any studies which show whether or not face visors can protect other people from the germs you give out. And this is why some scientists might be wary.

If you have Coronavirus, a face shield probably won’t protect those around you from catching it. That said, if everyone wears one, then they’ll slow the spread. Your visor protects you, and mine protects me.

Who should wear a face shield

Face shields may come in handy if you work in a shop, restaurant or another public-facing job. What’s more, if you’re at high risk of Coronavirus complications, you might consider wearing shields and masks at the same time. When robots wore both shields and masks in his aforementioned study, they blocked out 97% of the virus from landing on the masks.

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