Runners should use face shields not face masks

U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Jacklyn Smith, Tripler Army Medical Center medical warehouse non-commissioned officer in charge, receives assistance from U.S. Army Capt. Scott Nguyen, TAMC General Surgery resident physician, with adjusting her face shield at TAMC, Hawaii, April 3, 2020. Due to a shortage of disposable masks, the 15th Wing is using 3D printers to make face shields to donate across the island to combat the COVID-19 pandemic. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Erin Baxter)

Easing or lifting of lockdowns is a very welcome news for runners. The World Health Organisation as well as other health experts continuously reminds us to exercise by running outside if allowed by our respective governments, and to find alternatives if not.

This, combined with the requirement to wear a face mask, already caused two teenagers their lives and a newbie runner with a collapsed lung. If running with a face mask is not an option and the tips we suggested in our previous post is not good enough, there is another and better option than wearing a face mask.

According to the paper entitled Moving Personal Protective Equipment Into the Community: Face Shields and Containment of COVID-19, cloth masks have been shown to be less effective than medical masks for prevention of communicable respiratory illnesses, this was not the first time we were warned about this yet government officials require runners to wear one regardless of the danger it might cause―both to our lungs and increasing infection due to a false sense of security. But there is good news, face shields may provide a better option.

Why a face shield?

The most obvious reason is it gives a better protection than not wearing any cover. Normally, a face shield is paired with a medical mask but as we discussed in our previous post wearing a face mask while doing intense exercises only places us at risk of developing lung complications among others.

Face shields are also easy to clean, just use soap and water or any household disinfectant and it can be used repeatedly. Communication is easy as well, with face masks, people tend to remove it and unknowingly touch the filters and their faces, which increases the risk of infection. With a face shield, there is no need to remove it and if we attempt to touch our face the shield is there to remind us not to.

In the paper Efficacy of Face Shields Against Cough Aerosol Droplets from a Cough Simulator it showed in a simulation study that face shields reduced the immediate viral exposure by 96% when worn within 18 inches of a cough. When it was repeated in the recommended 6 feet (1.8288 meters) distance, face shields reduced the inhaled virus by 92%.

How to use a face shield

Experts suggested that a face shield should extend below the chin anteriorly, to the ears laterally, and there should be no exposed gap between the forehead and the shield's headpice. The following was also suggested in another paper:

  • Snug/tightly fitting.
  • Never touch the front side of a face shield.
  • With gloved hands remove face shields from behind by untying the ribbon knot.
  • Avoid all supplementary materials like sponge, stapler pins, sticking materials, adhesives, and any other fancy materials for aesthetic appeal.

Safety Guidelines for Sterility of Face Shields During COVID 19 Pandemic

How to clean a face shield

  • 1% Sodium Hypochlorite solution for minimum of 10 minutes
  • Dry in sunlight and clean with sanitisers with gloved hands.
  • 2% Glutaraldehyde for 10 minutes, then wash with normal saline before drying.

Safety Guidelines for Sterility of Face Shields During COVID 19 Pandemic

Final suggestion

If you are going to run outside, in addition to the suggestions in Is Running with a Face Mask Advisable, put on a proper face shield as was explained above. Wrapping a thin cloth, say a handkerchief or a thin shemagh, around our nose and mouth will also add extra protection on top of the face shield. This is better than using a thick cloth mask or medical face mask.

With all these protections and social distancing measures, the most important to remember is we should never fall into a false sense of security. Avoid touching our faces, avoid touching the surfaces of face shields and face masks, and to always wash our hands with soap. These social distancing suggestions and personal protection equipments will not make us immune or perfectly secure against infection. It all comes down to our knowledge and awareness of our self and environment.

Be safe out there!


(Return to the Welfareness COVID-19 Page.)

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