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Personal Protective Equipment: Face Shield

PPE: Understanding Face Shields

Thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic, we all know that PPE face masks are a great way to reduce the risk of infection and minimize the spread. But many medical experts believe that PPE face shields are a good idea because they also protect the eyes.

Can You Become Infected with COVID-19 Infection Through your Eyes?

It’s important to know that you can become infected by the coronavirus through your eyes, just as you can become infected through your mouth or nose. If you are standing closer than six feet to a person and the individual sneezes or coughs, particles spray from their nose out mouth, into the air, and once airborne, you can breathe them in through your nose or mouth.

However, there is a possibility that these droplets may also enter your system by passing through the membranes and tissues of your eyes. You can also become infected by touching an infected object or surface and then touching your eyes. It is also possible for people who have contracted COVID-19, to spread the virus through their tears.

What Exactly is a Face Shield?

A PPE face shield has three components:

  • A plastic headband with foam lining for comfort
  • A clear plastic shield
  • An elastic headband

Typically, the shield’s headband is made from a resin polymer because the material is lightweight and can easily be wiped clean. The clear face shield is usually made from PET, PET-G, polycarbonate, or acetate sheets with a .005-.010-inch thickness. The head strap is made from elastic.

PPE face shields are designed to be reusable as long as there are sterilized between uses and for as long as they keep their shape. Individual healthcare facilities should determine the lifespan of their face shields. All face shields should be sterilized before initial use.

Is a PPE Face Shield a Good Idea?

If you are a professional healthcare worker, then the CDC recommends that you should always wear eye protection, such as a face shield, if you are in an environment where you are at risk of moderate to high infection transmission.

Although you may also wear safety goggles for protection, standard prescription eyeglasses, reading glasses, sunglasses, or safety glasses are not protective because of the gaps around the lenses.

If you work outside of the healthcare profession, but you are in an environment where you must have regular contact with a large number of people, such as a grocery store or restaurant, wearing a face shield will give you better protection from the coronavirus. If you feel comfortable with a shield and you want to use one, then there is no reason not to.

PPE Face Shield VS Face Mask

Some medical experts are divided over whether a mask is better than a face shield. Face shields do have their benefits because they:

  • give full face coverage
  • are easier to disinfect than masks
  • prevent the wearer from touching their face
  • there is no need to remove it when talking with someone

However, many health specialists agree that if a face shield is used, it should be worn in combination with a mask and not as a substitute for one. They are also of particular importance to healthcare and other workers who are in situations where they cannot social distance and they have a risk of infection from aerosol spray. In these cases, wearing a face shield can provide an extra layer of protection in combination with a face mask.

How to Put on Your Face Shield

  • Grasp the straps to the shield’s headband and lean forward slightly. Avoid touching the front of the shield.
  • Using your thumbs, expand the elastic and position it behind your head, allowing the foam lining to rest comfortably against your forehead. The headband should sit about 3cm above your eyebrows.
  • Once the shield is in place, make sure that it is completely covering the front and sides of your face. The bottom of the shield should reach just below your chin.
  • You must keep the shield down at all times and refrain from pushing it into a raised position.
  • If you’re having difficulty keeping the shield in place, tighten the visor by adjusting the elastic band at the side of the shield. (Some shields are adjusted differently than others).
  • You must sterilize your face shield after each use. You can continue to use the same PPE face shield as long as it retains its form and the elastic still functions.
  • Always take care to avoid cross-contamination between shields.

How to Remove Your Face Shield

  • You should never, for any reason, touch the front of the shield.
  • Before you take off your face shield, remove other PPE and wash your hands.
  • To remove your shield, lean forward slightly and take hold of the strap at the back of your head and pull it forward over your head.
  • If the face shield is reusable, deposit it carefully for sterilization. If it is disposable discard it in a designated place.
  • Wash your hands again.

Cleaning and Disinfecting Your Face Shield

Some PPE face shields are designed for single-use only, these should not be sterilized or reused but discarded safely. You should only consider re-using single-use shields if you work in a healthcare environment and your supply of face shields is critically low. The manufacturer will usually provide instructions for how to sterilize the shields, if so, they should be followed before the face shield is reused a subsequent time.

In some cases, it may be appropriate for each user to clean their own face shield. However, this can lead to differing degrees of sanitization. In healthcare settings, it is usually preferable to have users deposit their shields in a safe receptacle so that they can be sanitized together. Mass disinfection ensures that all the face shields get the same treatment.

In summary, if you feel the need to use a PPE face shield, you will get maximum protection by combining it with a face mask.

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