Question & Answer

Are face shields as effective as face masks in protecting against COVID 19?

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  • A face shield or visor is primarily used to protect the eyes of the person wearing it. We do not know what level of protection a face shield provides to people nearby from the spray of droplets from the wearer’s mouth and nose.
  • Face shields may be worn to reduce the amount of droplets scattered from the nose and mouth, and act as ‘source control’ to protect the environment and people from the wearer, or to protect the wearer from other people’s droplets.
  • A 2014 study looking at the ability of face shields to protect against aerosol droplets from a cough simulator, found that wearing a face shield alone might not be sufficient to protect the wearer from small airborne droplets.
  • It may not be feasible in every situation to wear a facemask or face covering, for example, people who are deaf or hard of hearing—or those who care for or interact with a person who is hearing impaired. Face shields may be considered as an alternative; however, it is important to note that while they offer some protection it is not as good as wearing a face mask or a face covering.
  • If wearing a face shield, the visor should wrap around the sides of your face (ear to ear) and extend to below the chin. Reusable visors should be cleaned after each use and then stored in a clean place until needed.
  • The US Centre for Disease Control and Prevention does not currently recommend use of face shields as a substitute for masks while the current HSE guidance states, “If you find it difficult to wear a cloth face covering, it’s okay to wear a full face visor or face shield instead. They are not as good as wearing a face covering, but you’ll still get some level of protection.”
  • You should still wear a mask or face covering while you self-isolate if you have coronavirus, think you have coronavirus or are waiting on a test result, or are caring for someone with coronavirus or who has suspected coronavirus or are self-isolating and you cannot keep 2 metres between you and other people in your household.
  • Face coverings, masks or shields alone are not sufficient to prevent the spread of COVID-19. They are NOT a replacement for other recommended measures e.g. hand hygiene, respiratory etiquette, social distancing etc to help prevent spread of COVID-19.
  • Research in this area is rapidly evolving, and it is expected that recommendations will continue to evolve accordingly.

Things to Remember


  • Lead Researcher: Dr Sonja Khan, HRB Clinical Research Facility, NUI Galway
  • Reviewed by: Elaine Finucane, HRB-Trials Methodology Research Network, School of nursing and Midwifery, NUI Galway.
  • Evidence Advisor: Prof Susan Smith, Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland and General Practitioner in Inchicore Family Doctors, Dublin.
  • Evidence Advisor: Casey Donaghey, Public and Patient Involvement in research (PPI) advisor, PPI Ignite, NUI Galway.
  • Journalist Advisor: Dr Claire O’Connell, Contributor, The Irish Times.