Face shields have traditionally been used by healthcare professionals as part of their work-provided personal protective equipment (PPE).However, as the novel coronavirus continues to spread, more people are looking into wearing face shields for added protection from the virus.We consulted with Dr. Graham Snyder, an infectious disease and prevention specialist at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center to learn about the potential benefits of face shields and what to look for when choosing one.You can also check out our guides on where to buy cloth face masks on Etsy, Amazon, and from other fashion brands.This article was medically reviewed by Dr. Jason R. McKnight, MD, MS, a family medicine physician and clinical assistant professor at Texas A&M College of Medicine.
Over the past several months, several studies have shown that wearing a face mask in public helps contain the spread of the novel coronavirus.While there’s some evidence that the new coronavirus can be contracted by touching a surface on which the virus is active, it appears that it’s quite rare for infection to happen that way. Researchers have determined that the virus is primarily transmitted from one individual to another via tiny droplets that are projected into the air.Usually, this occurs when an infected person coughs or sneezes, although being in close proximity while talking or singing can potentially spread COVID-19 as well. As such, the Center for Disease Control recommends wearing face masks to help curtail the spread of the disease. However, healthcare professionals tell us that those same simple strips of cloth aren’t especially great at keeping the person wearing them safe from COVID-19, even though they prevent the wearer from transmitting the disease themselves. So, what about plastic face shields? Do they offer better all-around protection than a face mask? And if so, what should we look for in a face shield and where is the best place to buy one? We interviewed Dr. Graham Snyder, an infectious disease and prevention specialist at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, to learn more about the potential benefits of face shields and what to look for while shopping for one.Since face masks are typically made of cloth, they’re somewhat permeable. Because of this, it’s possible for smaller droplets to pass through the mask and potentially infect others. A plastic face shield greatly reduces the chances of that happening.But how much more effective is a shield when compared to a mask? According to a study conducted back in 2014, a face shield was able to reduce the level of exposure to a virus that was projected as little as 18 inches away by as much as 96%.”A face shield provides eye protection, which is important when it comes to preventing the spread of the virus,” Dr. Snyder told Business Insider. “A shield can also keep us from touching our eyes and face, which is another way that coronavirus can spread.”Eye protection isn’t the only benefit a face shield provides. Shields are also more comfortable to wear and don’t obstruct the wearer’s ability to breathe. Additionally, they’re much easier to keep clean and reuse as compared to cloth masks, which are less durable and usually require machine or hand washing (drying them in the dryer is also recommended). Because a shield sits in front of the face as opposed to on it, it’s easier to communicate while wearing one as well. Face shields are also transparent, which allows the hearing impaired to read the lips of the person wearing it. Snyder said that face shields are especially important for medical staff, who face a much higher likelihood of exposure to infectious diseases compared to the general public. Because a face shield provides coverage of the nose, mouth, and eyes, the chances of exposure are greatly reduced, keeping healthcare professionals safer and healthier. When used in conjunction with a surgical mask, the risks drop even further. “Face shields are part of every medical professional’s personal protective equipment,” Snyder said. “Because they interact with more potentially infected people on a daily basis, they require a greater level of protection than the average person.”According to Snyder, cloth face masks offer more than adequate protection for the community at large. “As long as individuals continue to socially distance themselves from others, and wear a mask while in public, a shield simply isn’t necessary,” he said. “The level of exposure for most people simply isn’t great enough to warrant wearing a shield.”Face shields may not be necessary for the general public, but some experts feel they can still benefit essential workers operating in fields outside of healthcare. For instance, bus drivers, grocery store clerks, and convenience store workers all have the potential to interact with infected individuals on a daily basis. When school resumes in Philadelphia, teachers will wear face shields, too.Dr. Snyder shared some advice for workers who are considering a face shield. He said that shields generally come in two varieties: Those that resemble a welder’s mask and versions that come with a plastic eye shield attached to the top of a surgical mask. Both types achieve the same goal of providing the wearer with eye protection, which is ultimately the biggest benefit that comes from wearing a shield. Snyder also told us that wearing safety glasses or goggles can achieve the same effect, and cited those options as possible alternatives to face shields.If you’re searching for a face shield to add to your own collection of PPE, there are a number of options available for purchase online. Most of the face shields are quite affordable and offer a similar set of features, although there are a few models that stand out. Here are some suggestions for the best face shields you can buy online.