The mandates related to COVID-19 have been loosened in most areas, thanks to the large number of vaccinated individuals reducing the long-term or life risk of the virus. However, the fight is far from over. The use of face shields and masks is here to stay, and it helps to know the various types if you’re looking to choose the best option for your situation.
Here are the seven types of face shields to be used for covid-19:
- Wide face
- Food grade
- Face shields with goggles
In this article, we’ll go over the different types of face shields used to protect against COVID-19, official guidelines on face shields, and how they can be used to keep yourself safe during this dangerous public health crisis. Read on for details.
The 7 Types of Face Shields
There are seven types of face shields that you can purchase for additional protection against COVID-19. Each is similar but has slightly different shapes and wearability.
When choosing one, consider what you are looking for and how it would settle over your face. Each style has its pros and cons, allowing you to choose the best option for your situation.
The most common type, the headband style, is the face shield you’ll see used most often and is most easily purchased. Strapped around the head, a padded or cloth-covered strip at the front helps it settle more comfortably and makes it easier to wear for long periods. The thicker the padding, the better to avoid agitating the skin.
You can find this style almost anywhere, and they’re often pretty affordable. Another benefit is that people who wear thicker glasses, including sunglasses, can fit this over the eyewear without issue.
A wide face shield might be better when you have a job that exposes you to contaminants on the sides of the head or if you need a shield that covers you from chemical splash. It spreads across from near the back of the head, wrapping around and covering the front with one continuous piece of plastic.
These can come in both headband styles or worn behind the ears like goggles. The goggle style doesn’t always stay in place, so choose one that also has a full band.
Some companies have opted to offer their employees disposable face shields. While these offer decent one-time use, the fact that you can only use them once comes with a few problems.
They are terrible for the environment, creating a great deal of waste for very little active use time. For another, they break easily, which can reduce protection if the damage isn’t immediately noticed.
Another problem is cost. Though reasonably cheap in bulk, you’ll quickly go through a great deal of the shields if you’re using them frequently.
Investing in a permanent solution that can be worn long-term is more cost-effective over time. It’s also more environmentally responsible and limits waste disposal fees (some states may consider this medical waste).
4. Food Grade
If you work in a kitchen, you may have seen some chefs and other workers wearing this narrow, plastic face field slightly different from those you’d see in an office. These are food-grade face shields. They wrap a little more tightly around the head and go down below the chin, allowing for free movement without risking the shield slipping or being readjusted while preparing food.
These masks have been certified by the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and are the best option for anyone working with food.
One of the more expensive face shields, these can be very useful. A pivot shield has hinges at the top that allows the shield to be flipped upward when needed. This eliminates the need to take off the shield when eating or drinking and clears the way if you need a closer visual inspection.
These shields are standard in labs with microscope work. However, they have recently found their way into customer service and other sectors.
6. Face Shields With Goggles
What do you do if you work in a field that has eyewear regulations? Trying to fit goggles behind a face shield can be difficult, so they created these shields with built-in goggles behind the plastic sheeting.
A face shield with goggles is an excellent alternative to traditional shields. It’s comfortable to wear because it’s usually built to settle behind the ears, with an additional strap for keeping it in place.
These can be harder to find, but some manufacturers will allow you to order them custom. Otherwise, stores that cater to manufacturing industries or lab-specific work will often have them for sale.
7. Mouth Guard
Mouthguards are technically a face shield, but they aren’t considered an effective protective measure against COVID-19. While you can wear them alongside a mask, they only protect the nose down to the chin. That leaves the rest of the face exposed, which is particularly problematic for the eyes because they are susceptible to transmission.
You are better off purchasing a full-face shield, and experts say there are no reasons to choose a mouthguard. That’s particularly true if you consider that mouthguards typically are loose-fitting, which leaves plenty of room for droplets to find their way into the part they’re supposed to be protecting.
Is a Face Shield the Same as a Mask?
A face shield is not the same as a mask, but it is easy to confuse the two, given they both cover the face. The main difference is that a mask covers the mouth and nose with molded fabric, while a face shield is a piece of plastic that covers the entire face.
Mask mandates have effectively ended in the United States, with the only official state mandate in place in the territory of Guam as of the time of this writing. But many individual businesses, hospitals, clinics, and events still require face coverings.
Some allow proof of vaccination to keep the mask off.
Some people have opted to use face shields instead of masks, which may or may not be allowed depending on where you are. For example, a grocery store that still requires facial coverings might be fine with a plastic shield, while a hospital is likely to insist on at least a surgical mask for both staff and patients.
What Is the Efficacy of Face Shields Against Disease?
The efficacy of face shields against disease has been controversial for quite some time. They’ve been used in hospital settings long before COVID-19, but when public workers began to use them in place of masks, experts began to warn that they weren’t a perfect solution.
Luckily, they do have their place.
A past study by the CDC looked at face shields’ protective qualities, and researchers were surprised by the results. The number of droplets released in the air when patients coughed measured what was blocked by the shield. Using a simulation to reduce risk to participants, they found the following:
- A patient with influenza released an average of 8.5 μm of contaminated droplets when they coughed.
- Within 46-cm (18-in) of that patient, medical staff could inhale an estimated 0.9% of that contaminated aerosol in the first burst of coughing.
- A plastic face shield reduced the amount of exposure to medical staff by as much as 96%.
- An additional finding showed 97% less surface contamination of ventilators (this would prove especially important when considering the treatment of COVID-19.
This can’t be directly applied to COVID-19 due to the differences in transmissibility and the increased severity of the coronavirus versus the flu. Still, it does provide a framework for understanding what face shields have to offer the average person wearing them for protection during the pandemic.
What the Experts Have To Say
The opinions of experts on this topic have been somewhat mixed. One study done by Wayne University using a simulation method claimed that face shields don’t offer any additional protection than surgical masks alone. But that isn’t entirely as cut and dry as it might seem.
Rather than seeing this as a point against face shields, it is instead a point towards the efficacy of certain types of masks. That a surgical mask can offer such complete protection against COVID-contaminated droplets is excellent.
Does that mean there’s no point in wearing a face shield during the pandemic?
No, and many other experts have suggested including it over a mask. In particular, the problem arises in public spaces where many workers, such as salons, restaurants, and offices, have opted for a shield with no other measures in place. This includes social distancing, which is impossible or challenging in some situations.
Going back to the study results on how protective a face shield is can show us something critical. While keeping us safe from splashes and droplets (from coughing in particular), shields can also extend to other bodily fluids and add a secondary barrier between ourselves and the breath of others. This can help prevent the spread of many things, including the coronavirus.
There’s a difference between something not being effective and it not being effective enough on its own against a specific virus. The truth is that while we don’t have data on the particular rate of protection of face shields when added to a mask, we have the data from the previous study on their use before COVID-19 on airborne contaminants that gives us a decent framework to start from.
Why Is Wearing a Face Shield Over a Mask Preferrable?
With the CDC stating that wearing a face shield doesn’t provide proper coverage against COVID-19, some have incorrectly assumed they’re not helpful. Using face shields with surgical or N95 masks offers additional protection. This is in and out of clinic settings, such as public businesses.
One way that people can benefit from a face shield is by avoiding touching the face. Many of us learned during the start of the pandemic that we touch our faces way more than we thought possible.
A face shield is an effective way to prevent us from touching the mask’s fabric beneath, rubbing our eyes, feeling around the mouth, etc. Droplets can gather there. The aerosol from a cough lingers in the air, and we might walk through it, contaminating our face covering.
Another benefit is protecting the eyes. Studies have shown that not only are the eyes a viable method of transmission of COVID-19, but the virus can cause specific ocular conditions. These include episcleritis, conjunctivitis, uveitis, lacrimal gland inflammation, diminishing ocular motility, and changes or damage to both the ocular nerve and retina.
Finally, we have an uncommon issue, but one to look for, regardless. Studies found that the coronavirus can have a marked effect on the brain, causing neurological symptoms that can last well after the initial infection. Some of these include personality and behavioral changes and even strokes.
While not definitively linked, some evidence suggests that erratic and maybe even aggressive behavior can be caused by confusion and other symptoms in some patients. When dealing with erratic behavior, you’d better be prepared for anything.
For example, say you have someone who has been increasingly hostile instead of their usual mild personality, and they spit at you. Or someone is having a seizure, a situation where spitting isn’t unheard of. A protective barrier wouldn’t be a bad thing to have around your face in such a case.
Having a mask is crucial for protecting yourself and others appropriately. A face shield is a simple, affordable way to increase that protection, especially in areas where masks might not reach.
How to Get the Most Protection From Your Face Shield
If you’ve chosen to wear a face shield, you want to ensure that you get the best possible protection. This isn’t difficult, but it does require a little bit of planning. That includes understanding how to handle one to reduce contamination.
These tips will ensure you get the best protection against COVID-19 and other potential diseases.
Select the Right Type of Face Shields for COVID-19
The first step is always making sure you have chosen the correct type of face shield. Different shapes, sizes, and coverage areas will dictate how effective they’re likely to be. Certain products are classified as face shields when they aren’t approved ones. These include balaclavas and bandanas, neither of which offer adequate barriers against the coronavirus.
A proper face shield will have a plastic, translucent (some may be tinted) screen. It hangs in front of the face with a short distance between the tip of your nose and the barrier. Some will have different shapes, either square, rounded or hexagonal. It will work fine as long as it starts at the hairline of the forehead and extends down to just below the chin.
Some products will have other features, such as additional straps, double plated screens, or goggles. Any of these are appropriate and depend on your preferences. There may also be policies in place by your employers about which to use.
Be careful about tinted guards. These aren’t any worse as far as protection goes, but they might make it harder to see what you’re doing. When working with customers or patients, you’d make them less comfortable since they can’t see your eyes.
Pair the Face Shield With a Cloth Mask
The CDC has released clear guidelines that state a cloth mask has to be used for proper protection against COVID-19. Face shields should be used as additional protection rather than alone. This is due to them helping block the aerosol spray caused by coughing, but not overall airborne transmission.
Be sure you choose a cloth mask on the approved list, such as N95, KN95, or a surgical mask. You can then select any face shield you prefer to go over it. A mask won’t interfere with wear since shields tend to rest behind the ears or use a central strap.
Keep in mind that taking off your shield could catch behind the mask and pull it off. Take extra care when removing either.
Keep Your Face Shield Properly Sanitized
Viruses and bacteria can live on surfaces, and hand-to-hand or hand-to-object transmission is standard during various seasons where illness is more prevalent. Colds and flu often transmit this way, and we’ve heard of instances where surfaces like gas pumps spread COVID (though this is not as common as airborne transmission).
Working in a public space, particularly one medically-based, can lead to many germs being passed around and illness spreading fast. Your shield, which is front and center, is likely to get contaminated. Ensuring it is adequately sanitized every time you wear it is critical; otherwise, you are opening yourself up to trouble.
Before putting on your face shield, take some time to use an anti-bacterial spray, such as Lysol, or some kind of sanitizing wipe. Then, take it off at the end of the day and sanitize it again. This is an easy way to keep yourself safe from disease and give you some peace of mind.
Watch Where You Wear It
One research group did a horrifying study on public bathrooms and found that 500,000 bacterial cells had developed within a single hour of use. That is a lot of contamination, and it isn’t uncommon to see similar numbers outside of those spaces, like break rooms.
You don’t have to hold it your entire shift, but you don’t want to take anything with you that might be unnecessary. Consider removing the face shield before going to the bathroom or heading into the office kitchen. Limiting exposure can only help keep you healthy一whatever you are worried about catching. We could all use fewer sick days.
What about masks, you might ask? Keeping it on is fine, but avoid touching it until you have washed your hands and exited the bathroom. And make sure you keep those fingers off of your face, as well.
Don’t Share Your Face Shield
This isn’t always possible in workspaces where you have to share equipment, though it might be worth purchasing your own if they ask you to share any PPE. If you do have to share, make sure you sanitize your shield every time you wear it and wash your hands after handling it after the last person.
If you can, keep a face shield that is 100% yours and take it home at night, so you’re sure it isn’t being handled while you’re gone. Remember that not everyone is symptomatic, and you don’t know what illnesses someone might have just by looking at them. COVID, in particular, can be hard to pin down by symptoms due to overlap with many other conditions.
Wash Your Hands Before You Handle Your Face Shield
Washing your hands frequently, especially before doing anything near your face, is good common sense in all situations. We carry germs with us everywhere, and it’s easy to spread them on door handles, during handshakes, or even picking up items at the grocery store. There’s no telling what you might have lurking on your skin.
Before you do anything with your face shield, even sanitize it, give your hands a quick wash. It might feel like an extra step, but it’s a simple one that can keep you from catching any bugs that might be lingering.
Don’t Wear a Broken Face Shield
Most face shields are pretty sturdy, but that doesn’t mean they can’t break. From snapped hinges to tiny cracks, you’d never wear a broken piece of PPE. Not only will it be less effective in fighting against disease, but the materials used could lead to inhaling or blinking in microscopic pieces of plastic.
If you have a broken face shield and can’t immediately get another, just wear the cloth mask and wait until you can replace it.
Get Your Medical Supplies from Allied USA
You deserve simplicity with ordering your medical supplies. Here at Allied USA, we’ve made it easier than ever to get everything you need for your medical office in one place. With a wide variety of items ranging from medical gloves to face shields, you will find what you need and more to stay well-stocked. Check out our selection today!
- CBC: Can I use a mouth shield instead of a mask? Your COVID-19 questions answered
- Quality Logo Products: What Are the Different Types of Face Shields?
- Wayne State University: Plastic Face Shields Add Little Protection To Face Masks
- BBC: Why a face shield alone may not protect you from coronavirus
- NY Post: Face shields vs. masks: Experts compare effectiveness against COVID
- AJIC: A Laboratory Model of COVID-19
- CDC: Use and Care of Masks
- NCBI – SARS-CoV-2 and the Eyes: A Review of the Literature on Transmission, Detection, and Ocular Manifestations
- Keck Medicine of USC: Ask the Expert: How COVID-19 Affects the Eyes
- Rolling Stone: Here’s What We’ve Learned About Face Shields and How They Work Against Covid
- API: Gas Pumps in Times of COVID-19
- Live Science: How Dirty Are Public Restrooms, Really?
- Kimberly-Clark: Where the Germs Are: New Study Finds Office Kitchens and Break Rooms are Crawling with Bacteria
- Healthline: Why Plastic Face Shields Aren’t a Safe Alternative to Cloth Masks
- Mayo Clinic: How well do face masks protect against COVID-19?
- Cleveland Clinic: Will a Face Shield Protect You From The Coronavirus?