Plastic face shields are not as effective as masks!

Plastic face shields are not as effective as masks!

Every time we speak, thousands of aerosol droplets are sprayed into the air in front of us, most of which are invisible to the naked eye. There is now growing evidence that airborne aerosols carrying the coronavirus may play a major role in its spread. Current global guidance suggests that Covid-19 spreads rapidly from person to person through the contaminated droplets produced by others as they talk, cough, sneeze and breath.

A recent study showed that thousands of minute droplets are sprayed into the air just by uttering a few words. Many of the larger droplets settle onto nearby surfaces while smaller ones remain suspended in the air for hours, where they can be breathed in. A single cough can produce up to 3,000 droplets and studies indicate that these droplets can send aerosols up to 1.9m away; other studies have shown that a sneeze can project aerosol clouds up to 8m away. Larger droplets can also land on other people, clothing and surfaces around them, hence the continued emphasis on frequent and correct handwashing coupled with cleaning and disinfection of frequently touched surfaces daily to prevent the spread of Covid-19. 

Face mask wearing is important especially in the case of Covid-19 as the spread appears to be occurring by people carrying the virus who are asymptomatic. This makes it particularly challenging to suppress transmission in the community. The use of face masks/face coverings is believed to help to reduce the amount of virus which gets into the environment and potentially causes infections.

It is important to note that if masks are not correctly worn or fitted; the seal around the mouth and nose can still allow viral particles to slip around the side. Furthermore, facial hair can also disrupt the seal.

In view of recent evidence, Public Health advice provided to the government emphasises that plastic face shields are not as effective as masks as they do not form a seal against the face and only provide limited protection from inhaled aerosols. Therefore, whilst they may provide an additional layer of protection, plastic shields are not an alternative to masks.

A face covering should:

  • be made of a material that you find to be comfortable and breathable, such as cotton; and ideally include at least two layers of fabric
  • cover your nose and mouth, but allow you to breathe comfortably
  • fit comfortably and securely against the side of the face
  • be able to be washed with other items of laundry according to fabric washing instructions and dried without causing it to be damaged unless it is a single-use one

When wearing a face covering you should:

  • wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water for 20 seconds or use hand sanitiser before putting it on
  • avoid wearing it on your neck or forehead
  • avoid touching the part of the face covering in contact with your mouth and nose, as it could be contaminated with the virus
  • change the face covering if it becomes damp or if you have touched it
  • avoid taking it off and putting it back on frequently

When removing a face covering:

  • wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water for 20 seconds or use hand sanitiser before removing
  • only handle the straps, ties or clips
  • do not give it to someone else to use
  • if single-use, dispose of it carefully in a residual waste bin and do not recycle
  • if reusable, wash it as per manufacturer’s instructions at the highest temperature appropriate for the fabric
  • wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water for 20 seconds or use hand sanitiser once removed

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