It’s a bit baffling that we haven’t all yet agreed on the one key truth of COVID-19: The sooner everyone covers their face, the sooner we’ll stop the spread and regain some semblance of normal life. The CDC are big fans of cloth face masks for everyone over age 2. But many, including parents of squirming children, are looking for some other — and/or additional — options for face coverings, such as kids face shields.
Before you start shopping, you should know that experts say clear plastic shields are not as effective as cloth or disposable masks when it comes to preventing you from spreading the virus to others.
“It protects you, the wearer,” pediatric infectious disease specialist Frank Esper, MD, said on the Cleveland Clinic’s Health Essentials site. “But if you cough, because this face shield is away from your face, those droplets can still get out better than if you have a mask on.”
But putting a face shield on children is better than nothing, and it does go far in protecting its wearer from others’ droplets. Some also report that it’s cooler than a regular mask — thanks to that escaping air — and it doesn’t require as much adjustment as a mask, so there’s less danger of face-touching. That has many speculating whether a face shield is a good choice for children who have been pulling off their masks the first chance they get. We can’t say whether places that require masks will accept this as an alternative, but you certainly can try (and bring along a backup mask just in case).
Because COVID-19 lives longer on plastic and other hard surfaces longer than on porous ones, make sure you sanitize your child’s shield every day with soap and water or antibacterial cleaner.
One more reminder: Even though we see many of these face shields sold in sizes for babies, doctors have advised against putting them on anyone under age 2, due to suffocation risk.
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A version of this story was originally published in July 2020.