Your Covid-19 questions answered

Masks or face shields: which offer better protection against Covid-19?

04 August 2021 - 07:03 By unathi nkanjeni
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention doesn’t recommend the use of face shields as a substitute for masks. Stock photo.
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention doesn’t recommend the use of face shields as a substitute for masks. Stock photo.
Image: 123rf/boumenjapet

Face shields are not as effective at protecting you or the people around you from respiratory droplets.

This is according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Despite their popularity, the CDC doesn’t recommend the use of face shields as a substitute for masks.

“Face shields have large gaps below and alongside the face where your respiratory droplets may escape and reach others around you, and will not protect you from respiratory droplets from others,” said the organisation.

The CDC also warns against putting a plastic face shield or a mask on newborns and infants.

Speaking to Sunday Times,  Dr Susan Louw, a haematopathologist at SA’s National Health Laboratory Service, said there were concerns around wearing a face shield in public without a mask.

“Whether it is better or equally safe to just wear a shield, I don’t think that’s been completely elucidated,” said Louw.

“When you’re wearing a mask you’re also protecting your fellow human beings against you sneezing and coughing and transmitting the virus to them. A face shield might allow a virus to escape and infect the person standing next to you.”

The CDC said one of the pros for using a face shield are communicating with those who are deaf or hearing-impaired.

“If you must wear a face shield instead of a mask, choose a face shield that wraps around the sides of your face and extends below your chin or a hooded face shield. This is based on the limited available data that suggest these types of face shields are better at preventing spray of respiratory droplets,” said the organisation.


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