The Corona Virus emerged on 31st December 2019. Being highly contagious, the new type of Corona virus began mutating and soon became a pandemic. The earliest studies on the novel disease suggested using medical or cloth face masks to help contain the spread.

Face Shields
Are Face Shields Actually Helpful Against Covid-19? 3

From health care workers to the general public, everyone is using a mask as guided by World Health Organization. However, recently face shields have emerged as an alternative of using masks. Many studies have been conducted on its effectiveness and usability. In this article we will tell you all about face shields, sometimes also called visors, and find out whether they actually work or not.

Community transmission of Covid-19

Ever since the disease emerged, its transmission has been under the microscope. Researchers and experts have been making serious efforts to understand the exact medium of transmission of Covid-19. The disease was found to be spreading through tiny droplets of respiratory emissions from an affected person to another. These droplets can stay in the air and travel up to 6 feet. Another cause of spread is touching contaminated surfaces and then touching your face, nose, mouth or eyes with unwashed hands.

In almost all countries, wearing masks has been made compulsory at work and in other public places. Several strategies have to be implemented. For many countries track, trace, and quarantine is not a very easy option because of lack of immediate resources and population density. Experts are suggesting one more layer of protection against Covid-19 i.e. face shields.

What are face shields made of?

Face shields or visors are made of clear plastic or plexiglass. They have a silicon headband which stays fixed on your head and the plastic shield covers all of your face from forehead to neck. They also extend horizontally to cover the ears. These are easily available online. Face shields have been recommended by experts as an additional protective layer against Corona Virus but it has advantages and disadvantages both.

Advantages of using face shields:

  1. Face shields provide about 96% protection from Corona Virus. WHO has suggested a distance of 6 feet to be maintained between two people to prevent disease contraction. However, if the person is wearing a face shield, that distance can be reduced to 2 feet.
  2. Face shields are more comfortable to wear as they do not touch the wearer’s face. This makes it easier for them to talk as the other person can see their facial expressions.
  3. This equipment can be very helpful for healthcare workers as the regular masks can get contaminated after long shifts. In that case, masks can actually increase the danger of contracting the disease.
  4. The virus can enter a person via eyes as well and face shields stop that from happening as opposed to face masks which fail to protect the eyes.
  5. The durability of face shields is much higher than that of face masks which are mostly disposable. The shields can be disinfected and washed easily with common disinfectants or soap and water.
  6. Face shields have been found to be effective in protecting against not just Covid-19 but also other types of influenza virus aerosols by 80%.
  7. Given their simpler design and reuse potential, face shields are less likely to face massive shortages like face masks.
  8. When using a face mask, it has been observed that people remove it or pull it downwards while talking. It is a natural reflex because masks impede the voice and facial expressions. This can easily be avoided using face shields. Face shields are also suitable for people with breathing issues like asthma as they can be easily removed without touching the face at all.
  9. Face shields can be mass produced due to less complex raw material requirement as compared to surgical or N95 masks.
Advantages
Are Face Shields Actually Helpful Against Covid-19? 4

Disadvantages of using face shields:

  1. Regular cleaning and sterilization is necessary for face shields because Corona Virus has been found to sustain very well on plastic/non-porous surfaces.
  2. The shield can effectively protect the wearer, but the question is – will it will protect others too? The main idea of wearing masks in public places is not just to save one’s self from the virus but also others, in case you are an asymptomatic carrier yourself.

No study has been found about whether respiratory virus particles are contained if the affected person wears a shield because it is not full secured. The particles can still get suspended in the air from the sides. Masks protect others from the germs you are carrying and also protect you from other’s germs. Unfortunately, a shield seems to do the latter only.

  • A mask may be needed in addition to a face shield in any case. Wearing a combination of a shield and a mask can be most effective and provide maximum protection against the novel virus.

Conclusion

Data is still insufficient to take a stance in favor of face shields in protection against Covid-19. Larger trials and clinical studies have to be conducted in order to understand the effect of face shields. The ‘New normal’ routine post-pandemic will require new tolls and strategies for masses as they will require convenience and protection against the spread. This may include the use of face shields.

To contain the swift spread, major policy recommendations are required. But all in all, the face shields do provide an extra layer for front line workers and they should be endorsed as such. They are exposed to the virus for the longest time periods and need utmost protection against it. Face masks still are the forerunner despite the shortage and lesser durability. Masks actually absorb the germs and respiratory particles within them and are clinically more effective in flattening the curve.

Whether you wear a mask or a face shield, following proper removal procedure is necessary. Neither of them will be effective if eventually you touch your face with contaminated hands or fail to maintain social distancing.