Face Shields Or Face Masks Which Is Better: Lori Holt, a neuropsychologist in Encino, posed this question. Dr. Holt conducts in-office assessments on patients using plexiglass barriers, air purifiers and disinfectants to protect herself and her patients from Covid-19. However, her efforts to conduct an accurate assessment are often stymied by patients who come in wearing masks.
“One of the thorniest issues we had to overcome involved the use of face coverings,” she wrote in an email.
Dr. Holt evaluates patients using a battery of tests to gauge things like a patient’s memory, attention and language. Face masks can sometimes muffle speech, posing communication challenges and potentially affecting the patient’s comprehension of the tests.
“If the patient doesn’t fully understand even a word or two of a paragraph or a word list that I’m asking them to remember for a verbal memory test, the entire test is ‘spoiled’ and unusable,” she said.
Dr. Holt has found that clear plastic face shields are a good alternative to masks for her patients, who can opt to wear their own masks or are given their own face shields that they can take home afterward.
“It is much easier to test the patients when they wear the face shield,” she said. “Their speech is much more intelligible than when they wear a mask. Also, we can see the patient’s face and thus do not lose critical data with respect to facial expression that can help us understand the patient’s emotional state of mind.”
Dr. Holt wondered about the popularity of face shields because, she said, despite the shield casting a minor glare, it is so comfortable that she sometimes forgets to take it off at the end of the day.
John Anderson, who lives in Penn Valley, Calif., asked a similar question about face shields. Mr. Anderson is hearing-impaired and prefers that others use face shields so that he can read lips. During a recent health checkup, his doctor wore a mask and his wife wore a face shield. He read his wife’s lips as she repeated the doctor’s words.
Last week, Gov. Gavin Newsom ordered all Californians to wear face coverings, like cloth masks, when out in public. The state’s Department of Public Health recommends wearing a plastic face shield with a cloth draped along the bottom only if the wearer has a medical condition that prevents them from wearing a cloth mask.
Face shields are also commonly used by front-line health workers, but more people are looking at face shields as an added layer of protection.
The Palo Alto Unified teachers’ union requested that the district supply teachers with face shields and other personal protective equipment when they return to school. And the state’s Department of Education recommends that everyone on school campuses wear masks or face shields with a drape across the bottom when schools reopen.
My colleague Knvul Sheikh wrote about the use of face shields, which can be easily wiped down and reused. Face shields also have the benefit of stopping people from touching their faces, and can be easier and more comfortable than masks.
However, experts say face shields have limits to the amount of protection they can offer. They seem to be most effective in protecting against cough droplets for people in close range of one another.
And droplets can seep in through the back and sides of a face shield, which is why draping a piece of cloth along the bottom is recommended. But their efficacy has not yet been widely studied. For now, face masks are the better option for most people.
Regardless, we may be seeing a lot more of them in the coming weeks.
The City of Long Beach issued a health order last month requiring servers in restaurants to wear both cloth masks and face shields when working. Los Angeles issued a similar order this month.
What’s the best material for a mask?
Scientists around the country have tried to identify everyday materials that do a good job of filtering microscopic particles. In recent tests, HEPA furnace filters scored high, as did vacuum cleaner bags, fabric similar to flannel pajamas and those of 600-count pillowcases.
Other materials tested included layered coffee filters and scarves and bandannas. These scored lower, but still captured a small percentage of particles.
Is it harder to exercise while wearing a mask?
A commentary published this month on the website of the British Journal of Sports Medicine points out that covering your face during exercise “comes with issues of potential breathing restriction and discomfort” and requires “balancing benefits versus possible adverse events.”
Masks do alter exercise, says Cedric X. Bryant, the president and chief science officer of the American Council on Exercise, a nonprofit organization that funds exercise research and certifies fitness professionals.
“In my personal experience,” he says, “heart rates are higher at the same relative intensity when you wear a mask.” Some people also could experience lightheadedness during familiar workouts while masked, says Len Kravitz, a professor of exercise science at the University of New Mexico.