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Think face shields can protect you from coronavirus? It isn’t effective, says study

Published on:10 December 2020, 15:34pm IST
Wearing face shields to protect yourself against coronavirus isn’t as effective as most people thought. You need a mask.
PTI
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Face shields are important but not effective without the masks! Image courtesy: Shutterstock
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Think going out with a face shield is enough to protect yourself from the novel coronavirus? Well, you’re utterly wrong. There’s no doubt that it does add an extra layer of protection, but it cannot replace your mask!

A recent study published in the journal Physics of Fluids found that face shields alone are not effective when it comes to preventing COVID-19 infection. The researchers noted that the number of people using face shields as a substitute for face masks has been increasing in schools, universities, restaurants, and service businesses. 

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The scientists, including those from Fukuoka University in Japan, said sneezes produce a fluid phenomenon known as vortex rings that can capture microscopic particles and pass through the shield’s barrier.

“A vortex ring is a doughnut-shaped vortex that is generated by an instantaneous ejection of fluid from a circular orifice. This resembles bubble rings made by dolphins,” explained study co-author Fujio Akagi from Fukuoka University.

Also, read: Covid-19: Do we really need to wear face shields? This is what a doctor has to say

So, what happens when a person wearing a face shield is exposed to a sneeze from an infected person standing one metre away from them?

“The vortex rings generated by the sneeze capture the microscopic droplets within the sneeze and transports them to the top and bottom edges of the face shield,” Akagi said. He added that the droplets travel to the face shield wearer quickly, within 0.5 to 1 second, after the sneeze.

face shields
Face shields might actually be useless in the fight against covid-19. Image courtesy: Shutterstock

“If this arrival time is synchronised with inhalation, the shield wearer will inhale the droplets,” he added.

Based on the analysis, the scientists said droplets of sneezes are transported not only by the high-velocity airflow caused by sneezing but also by the vortex rings generated by sneezing.

They said the microscopic droplets transported by the vortex rings can get inside the shield through its top and bottom edges.

“It was also confirmed that some particles- in this simulation, 4.4 per cent of the released droplets- entered the inside of the face shield and reached the vicinity of the nose,” the scientists wrote in the study.

However, by gaining a better understanding of face shield weaknesses, they hope to enhance protection by reducing the flow getting inside the shield. “We are currently developing and demonstrating several improved shields,” Akagi said.

“We want to contribute to keeping people safe from infection, and believe that one day in the near future, medical workers will be able to prevent infection using only a face shield and a regular mask or, ideally, with only a face shield,” he added.

So, make sure you’re wearing a mask along with that face shield to keep yourself away from any infection.