Which protects you more from the coronavirus: A face mask or a face shield?

Two medical personnel in face shields and face masks
Photo via Official U.S. Navy Page/Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

Face masks have been proven as a safe and effective way to slow the spread of COVID-19. As mask requirements began cropping up in public spaces, some people opted to substitute face shields in the place of face masks. Face shields are not an effective replacement for face masks, but they can still be worn as an extra layer of protection.

Face shields are large pieces of plastic, attached to headbands, that cover your face. Though they are not as effective as masks, shields work in similar ways. Face masks help contain respiratory droplets and provide adequate protection on their own if you are social distancing. A face shield, however, has a larger open area around the bottom of the shield and is less effective at blocking the flow of respiratory droplets. 

Face shields are not recommended as an effective form of protection against COVID-19. A face shield can provide an extra layer of protection if you have to come in close contact with someone who is not wearing a mask, however, according to Johns Hopkins.

“There’s no such thing as too many weapons against the novel coronavirus. The more protection, the better,” Dr. Joy Henningsen, a clinical assistant professor at the University of Alabama at Birmingham School of Medicine, told Healthline. “Face coverings, regular hand washing, physical distancing, and staying home as much as possible are very good tools. Add a face shield to all of those requisite practices and you go from ‘good’ to ‘great.’”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends everyone over 2 years old wear a face mask for the health and safety of themselves and others. The CDC also says masks are not a substitute for social distancing and recommends people both wear a mask and social distance while in public or with others outside of your household.

If you do wear a face shield, make sure to wear a mask under it, and clean your face shield regularly. 

Read more on coronavirus face coverings:

Sources: Johns Hopkins Medicine, Healthline, CDC, Livescience

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