I spent 2 weeks wearing a face shield instead of a mask, and I'm never going back
- In South Africa, cloth face masks are currently required whenever you are in public.
- I tried wearing a face shield instead of a face mask for about a week, and fell in love.
- The shield is easily cleaned, easy to see through, simple to breathe and talk in, and provides a physical barrier that protects both the wearer and others from infection.
- There is no solid evidence about whether a shield is superior to a mask, protection-wise, but experts say there's no reason to think that face shields are necessarily inferior viral barriers.
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I'm just going to say it: I hate wearing my face mask.
Homemade face masks are uncomfortable, sweaty, difficult to breathe in, difficult to talk in, fog up glasses, and require regular washing.
Plus, they're imperfect viral barriers, especially if you're taking them on and off all day to talk, breathe, eat, and drink.
Luckily, I've found something far better.
I've been wearing a rigid plastic face shield - a protective barrier against disease made of plastic - that covers my eyes, nose, and mouth, in place of a makeshift face mask. I've been using it for about two weeks now, and the results have been delightful.
Wearing a mask in addition to a shield is the most iron-clad form of virus protection.
But, "if you just need some pretty good protection, and especially if you're just really worried about preventing you from giving someone else COVID, then the shield does actually protect you really well," said industrial designer Stephen Chininis, a professor at Georgia Tech in the US and advisor to the Curiosity Lab at Peachtree Corners, where he 3D prints shields.
The seal around the sides of the face and below the chin is not air-tight, but public health experts assured me that for most everyday encounters, that's probably OK.
Dr. Amesh Adalja, a senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins University Center for Health Security told Business Insider it would be extremely unlikely for someone else's viral particles to penetrate your shield, unless someone "sticks their face, sticks themselves directly" where there is a hole.
"The virus still follows gravity, right?" he said.
It's a lot easier to communicate with people in a shield, and easier to breathe. I've also gotten nothing but compliments on my new look.
I really don't mind keeping my shield on for extended periods of time when out running errands, and I never feel like I'm going to hyperventilate or pass out in a shield.
The reaction on the street has been overwhelmingly positive.
"Nice shield" two young men said as I walked by them on the sidewalk.
Another woman stopped me on the way to my local hardware store.
"Can I ask you a question?" she said. "Where did you get that?"
Bonus: there's no need to take the shield off when you get thirsty.
Adalja said this is a major benefit of shields over homemade masks.
"I think that shields may be more effective, because you don't touch your face as much when you're wearing a shield," he said.
Shields do have one fatal flaw. They are terrible for exercising.
And they can fly off in a stiff wind, which has happened to me on more than one occasion.
Once, just once, I tried to run in my shield. Never again.
The wind smushed the shield right into my nose and chin, and when I sped up, things got foggy fast.
After just six minutes on the run, the wind blew my shield off entirely.
It actually felt pretty great at that point. Running in a shield is a stifling exercise in frustration. There's just not enough airflow.
I finally figured out that wearing a cap with a narrower bill that frames my face more tightly than this one really helps to keep it from sliding off.
Fortunately, it's not that hard to keep the requisite 1.5 metres distance from other people when I run outside during this pandemic, shield or no shield.
I've been avoiding my usual running spots (in parks and on trails) during the pandemic. They're too crowded. But it's not hard to keep 1.5 metres away from others on the road, and there are very few cars out.
From now on when I run, I'll be shield-free.
But for everything else I do outside, this narrow-billed cap made from a soft, polyester-spandex material is the one I've settled on that fits best, and keeps the shield tightly wrapped around my face. I'm never going back to life in a mask.
Yes, hand washing and physical distance are still the best ways to stay virus-free, but shields are a way to not only stay safe, but stay seen, heard, and understood when venturing out and about.
I'm not the only one who thinks shields are underrated coronavirus-fighting tools. A group of doctors wrote recently in the medical journal JAMA that shields might help "reduce transmissibility below a critical threshold," if everyone wore one out in public.
Shields are "simple, "affordable," and if everyone wore them - in conjunction with regular coronavirus testing, tracing, and hand washing - disease experts suggested that might be a better strategy than the homemade face coverings the US Centres for Disease Control has recommended.
"Cloth masks have been shown to be less effective than medical masks for prevention of communicable respiratory illnesses," the doctors wrote. "Face shields may provide a better option."
They also cover your eyes, which a scientific review on the best ways to prevent coronavirus infections suggested may help prevent infections from spreading.
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