Face shield: Does it work as well as face mask?

During the pandemic, most healthcare workers have been told to put on face shields when they’re working for longer than 45 minutes with a patient, explains Ghazala Usmani, M.D., the clinical director of pediatric hematology and oncology at the UMass Memorial Medical Center.

A face shield will protect our skin and the outside of a mask from being sprayed with infectious material. We may then touch later with our hands and rub into our eyes, mouth, or nose. A face shield may add extra protection for essential workers or those who are consistently around strangers in public settings for extended periods of time.

But, as the pandemic has demonstrated a lack of PPE for frontline workers nationwide, they may not be necessary for every single American. “Unless you work in a public healthcare setting, there isn’t a need for eye protection in routine daily life,” Dr. Usmani explains. “That being said, we should avoid touching our face. Goggles and face shields are effective barriers and are recommended only in high risk conditions.”

Should I wear a face shield or a pair of goggles?

If you’re consistently around strangers or are taking care of someone who is sick, a face shield is a better fit for you in the long run. Face shields protect all around our eyes and over our entire face, whereas glasses just cover a very small area directly in front of our eyes and are not very protective.

When selecting a face shield to wear alongside your face mask, consider buying a reusable model that won’t put strain on medical-grade PPE supplies for healthcare workers. Many varieties are available online and are made with materials that can be sanitized between uses. You should source a product that completely covers your entire face, wrapping around the sides of your cheeks and extending below your chin, Dr. Usmani says.

If you are concerned about leaving your eyes unprotected while running errands outside, try sourcing a pair of safety goggles. These will add some barrier between your eyes and the environment around you. Besides, just like face shields, goggles and glasses may remind you to stop rubbing your eyes while in public.

How do I clean face shields?

Just like face masks, you should avoid touching the front of your face shield while in public or during use. Because this could contaminate otherwise clean hands. Disposable face shields are meant to be used only once. Here’s how you should clean your reusable face shield at home while wearing clean gloves:

  • Clean from the inside to the outside. This can help you keep surfaces sanitized while handling, using soap and water.
  • Remove any dirty or soiled crud or build up on the front of the shield.
  • Allow to dry.
  • Use a disinfectant (like Lysol wipes) that you would normally use on a hard, non-porous surface. Apply it to the front and interior of the shield. Then, let it dry according to manufacturer’s directions (on average, keeping it wet for at least 4 minutes).
  • Let it dry on a hook where it can hang or in a clean paper bag. Be sure to wash your hands after removing your gloves.

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