Tips for using face shields and masks to prevent the spread of infection

Face shields and face masks are recommended pieces of equipment when dealing with biological contaminants. While they can be used separately, they are also highly effective when used in conjunction with one another to reduce the contact both the patient and medical professional have with infectious substances.

Face Mask

Face masks are used for protecting the respiratory tract from infected droplets produced when a sick individual coughs, sneezes or speaks. It is a flexible, breathable piece of material that overlays the nose and mouth, and acts as a barrier to viruses and bacteria.

Face Shield

A face shield is a clear visor that overlays the entire face and acts as a barrier against direct splashes and droplets from entering the mucus membrane in the eyes, nose and mouth. It is often used in conjunction to face masks as an added layer of protection.

How to use a face mask

When donning a medical or surgical face mask it is important to follow proper procedure to maximise the effectiveness of the device. When putting the mask on:

  • Wash hands thoroughly before use. First wet your hands with clean running water and then begin applying the soap. When lathering your hands with soap make sure that you apply it to the backs of the hands, palms, wrists, between the fingers and under the fingernails. Scrub your hands for at least 20 seconds and then rinse with clean running water.
  • Ensure that the mask fits snugly over the face. When putting the medical mask on avoid touching the front, or coloured side of the mask, and ensure that the metallic strip fits over the bridge of the nose. Place the mask so that it fits over the nose and mouth, and that the bottom half completely covers the chin. Once you are sure that it is in the right position mould the metallic strips over the nose.
  • Do not touch the mask once it is in place. This is to ensure that no infected particles from your fingers transmit to the surgical mask.
  • Carefully take off the mask once done and dispose of properly. When taking off the mask you should not touch the inside or outside of the mask as they may be infected. Fold the mask outwards if it was used for protection against infection and discard in a bin with a lid.

How to use a face shield

  • Wash your hands thoroughly. Follow the above instructions on how to wash your hands effectively.
  • If required don your face mask first. If greater protection is required then first put on your face mask and then proceed to put on your shield.
  • Fit the face shield so that it covers your entire face. When putting on the surgical face shield avoid touching the inside or outside of the visor. If available use the adjustable straps to fit it snugly to your forehead with no chance of falling off. Ensure that the face shield covers the entire face past the chin.
  • Follow manufacturer’s instructions for disposal. Depending on the medical face shield and what it is used for it may be reusable. It is important to follow manufacturer’s and your own profession’s instructions for how they can be used and disposed of.