Recent studies have found that dry eyes could be an indication that Coronavirus is present. The infection spreads through respiratory droplets expelled when someone coughs, sneezes or talks. Therefore, where close contact is required to care for a COVID-19 patient, safety eyewear such as goggles or a face shield is a must for healthcare workers and infection control and prevention staff. These can help in avoiding a viral build-up in the eye and should be used as part of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE).
Face shields are also becoming popular among the general population, as it is a less restrictive covering and keeps foggy glasses and sweat at bay. It also stops people from touching their face with unwashed and potentially contaminated hands. These are now commonly seen on travellers before they board an aircraft and have also started to make their way on fashion sites.
Also, for those with allergies, a face shield, along with a face mask, is recommended before stepping outside. But are face shields the best option when it comes to protecting oneself from the Coronavirus?
What is a face shield?
A face shield is a transparent curved plastic that has an A-frame lid covering the nose and mouth and is attached to a headband that can be worn over the face. It should fit securely so that there is no gap between the band and the forehead. The shield should also extend beyond the chin.
Face shields have become a staple for healthcare personnel taking care of patients infected with COVID-19. These are also being worn during a variety of other medical procedures, where blood or other bodily fluids could get into the eyes, nose and mouth. This coverage is ideal since Coronavirus could enter the body through those points.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in the U.S. doesn’t recommend wearing face shields for everyday activities or as a substitute for face masks. However, some people may choose to use a face shield when they know that they’ll be in close contact with others and can wear a mask underneath the face mask to minimise the risk of infection since face shields have openings at the bottom.
Are face shields effective?
According to a 2014 study, a face shield reduced exposure by 96 per cent when tested against an influenza-infused aerosol from a distance of 18 inches away. It also reduced the surface contamination of a respirator by 97 per cent.
The goal of a face shield is to minimise the distance that the aerosol travels. It cannot alone prevent the spread of COVID-19 but can help in reducing transmission and block large particles from getting into the eyes and mouth.
While face masks absorb droplets, face shields don’t. They are typically for single-use, but if being reused, these will need to be cleaned frequently with mild soap and water or a hand sanitizer. Those wearing a face shield should wash their hands before and after removing the face shield and avoid touching their eyes, nose and mouth when removing it.
Face shields are bulkier than masks and might be a little uncomfortable for the wearer. However, wearing a mask may not be feasible in every situation for some people for example, who are deaf or hard of hearing or those who care for or interact with a person whose hearing is impaired.
Although evidence on face shields is limited, the available information suggests that face shields can be an effective additional layer of protection against COVID-19, along with wearing a face mask, practising safe social distancing and washing hands regularly.