Jul 06 , 2020
By now we know we should be wearing face masks to protect others from potentially deadly infection when we leave the house. But face masks can be hot, and they can irritate the skin, fog glasses, make it difficult for some to breathe and create a world without smiles. It also can be difficult for people who have hearing loss to communicate when mouths are covered, muffling voices and hiding facial expressions.
Are clear plastic face shields, most frequently used in health care settings, a better option?
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention continues to recommend wearing a cloth mask in public settings where other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain. But some health experts say shields appear to be very effective at preventing infection — maybe even more effective than masks — for someone going about regular daily activities and not in a high-risk health care setting.
Amesh Adalja, M.D., a pandemic preparedness expert at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, says, “There's a lot of at least biological possibility to suspect that [shields] are definitely better than homemade face masks, and maybe even better than other types of masks as well, because they not only prevent you from spreading it … [and] because it also covers your eyes, it provides more protection to the mucus membranes of your face where you might be getting infected.”
James Cherry, M.D., a distinguished research professor and infectious disease expert at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA, says that while experts aren't yet sure about how vulnerable our eyes are to infection “With many viruses, the eyes are important.” He points to measles and adenoviruses as examples of viruses that are known to infect people through their eyes.
DIY face shield tips
There are many online videos showing how to make your own shield in a few minutes, with different variations: a Canadian DIYer uses plastic binding covers you find at office supply stores; others use plastic bottles. (Note that these are not medical-grade or approved by any official health agency.)
This is one how to make a shield from an empty soda bottle.
- A 2-liter clear plastic bottle
- Cutting tool or scissors
- Small piece of weather stripping (others use packaging foam)
- Hole puncher
- String or ribbon
- Cut off the end of the bottle a few inches from the bottom
- Cut off the top of the bottle, keeping a bit of the curvature, which will go under the chin
- Cut up the middle, so it becomes a somewhat flat piece of plastic
- Trim off sharp edges, and narrow a bit if necessary to fit the width of your face
- Peel off the backing of a piece of weather stripping and stick it to the top edge, which will go against your forehead
- Punch a hole at the top on either side, and thread a string or ribbon through
- Tie it around your head