face mask or face shield

What’s Safer…a Face Mask or a Face Shield?

This week marks the eight-month anniversary of the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic and some people are getting tired of it. According to UC Davis psychologists, COVID fatigue is a real thing – and it’s making people take risks they might not have taken just a few months ago.

One of those risks? Eschewing a face mask in favor of a face shield.

Although once touted as an acceptable alternative to a face mask, the CDC has backtracked, saying they do not recommend face shields for standalone protection against the coronavirus.

A recent study by researchers at Florida Atlantic University (FAU) found plenty of evidence to support the CDC’s position. They retrofitted a mannequin head with a pump in order to simulate a “sneeze” comprised of glycerin and water, then used lasers to track the path of the droplets.

Three separate PPE devices were used in the experiment: a face shield, a mask with an exhalation valve, and a traditional mask. While the valved mask did its job in protecting the wearer, droplets were introduced into the surrounding environment, which could endanger those in the vicinity.

The face shield protected from “head on” spray, but fine particles were still introduced into the environment from the sides and bottom of the shield.

The traditional mask allowed fewer droplets to spread in a much smaller area than the valved face mask or face shield, making it the safest bet for standalone protection. A face shield worn in conjunction with a cloth mask, however, offers additional protection, and is highly recommended for medical professionals.

Although many people find cloth masks uncomfortable, they are still one of the best ways to slow the spread of the coronavirus. And there are plenty of ways to make them more tolerable, including:

  • Finding a mask that fits well without creating gaps
  • Using masks made of breathable material such as 100% cotton
  • Wearing plastic ear guards
  • Laundering masks regularly
  • Decreasing the amount of makeup you wear under your mask and moisturizing thoroughly before masking up

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