Wearing a face shield might not be as effective as you think to stop the coronavirus

face shields coronavirus effective
Photo via Navy Medicine/Flickr (Public Domain)
  • Respiratory droplets can still travel around and up the back of face shields
  • Masks with exhalation valves are also not effective
  • Neck gaiters might be even worse to wear than wearing nothing at all

A visual demonstration which was detailed in a study from the journal Physics of Fluids shows face shields may not be an effective method of protecting against the coronavirus. Similarly, the CDC has also said masks with exhalation valves should not be worn, as they do not prevent the spread of COVID-19.

In the case of face shields, viral particles containing the coronavirus can easily move in the air around the shield and to any mucosal orifices, where the virus can infect someone. Especially in the case of coughing or sneezing, where respiratory droplets are sprayed into the air, face shields are poor substitutes for masks. 

Speaking of masks, those with exhalation valves may be more comfortable to wear, but it defeats the purpose of wearing one in the first place. By allowing hot and moist air to leave the mask, making it cooler and easier to wear for lengthy stretches of time, any respiratory droplets which may be carrying coronavirus can also exit the mask.

Another facial covering favored for its lightweight nature is the gaiter. This sock-like alternative to traditional three-ply masks may actually be worse for the wearer in terms of preventing the spread of COVID-19, as the stretch polyester knit they are so frequently made from aerosolizes respiratory droplets. Among all the various face masks one can wear, the gaiter is probably the worst.

Instead, researching and then selecting the best masks for you and your loved ones is of the utmost importance. 

Classic masks themselves may be uncomfortable and collect heat and humidity, but that collection of heat and humidity could be the difference between spreading the coronavirus and keeping it to yourself. Instead of wearing face shields alone, make sure to pair it with an effective face mask to help stop the spread of the virus.

Read more on coronavirus face coverings:

Sources: LiveScience, CDC, CBS News

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