Black women-led start-up creates face shields for kids to help make covering up 'much more tolerable'

Megan Sims
·6 mins read
Little Lives PPE has created face shields that can fit children as young as 2 years old. (Photo: Little Lives PPE)
Little Lives PPE has created face shields that can fit children as young as 2 years old. (Photo: Little Lives PPE)

A Black women-led company has created the first ever medical-grade face shield for children, called the PediaShield.

During the height of the pandemic, Dr. Samira Brown, co-founder of Little Lives PPE, says that as a pediatrician in Atlanta, Ga., there were many challenges with getting personal protective equipment for her practice.

“We were just searching high and low for PPE and then were getting on the internet trying to order things that weren’t going to come for months,” she tells Yahoo Life. “Then when things finally showed up, they were poor quality. We weren’t sure exactly what was in them. They weren’t medical grade.”

The company co-founder, Dr. Gabrielle Page-Wilson, is an assistant professor of medicine at New York-Presbyterian/Columbia University Vagelos College of Physicians & Surgeons. She has an 8-year-old son with asthma, and was concerned for her child, who had to take public transportation to get to school. According to the company’s website, this led Page-Wilson to contact her friends — mom and attorney Alexandra Stanton, who was working to find PPE for healthcare workers, and Brown — to figure how they could keep children and families safe. After realizing that there were no U.S. manufacturers producing medical-grade PPE equipment, they decided to take things into their own hands, by creating Little Lives PPE.

“Kids are oftentimes an afterthought. They don’t have a vote, they don’t have a seat at the table,” Brown adds. “Our country has not had to face certain viruses that other countries have, where they do have medical-grade PPE readily available. And certainly for us when this started, we don’t have time to wait for it to come in two or three months.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has recommended that children 2 and older should wear face masks to prevent the spread of COVID-19, but noted that they may have trouble keeping the mask on for extended periods of time, causing them to not wear it properly. Brown believes face shields can help prevent these occurrences in a number of ways, including how it would prevent them from touching their faces in a way that masks cannot.

“So it’s like an automatic reminder to them,” she says. “And the kids can keep it on, they can play basketball and they can run outside, they’ve been to water parks in it. You want kids to be able to get out there, you do want them to play...in a safe way.”

When designing the face shield, the trio was determined to make sure that there was no gap at the top, in front of the forehead, which a requirement to be qualified as medical-grade. But they also wanted to be sure that the foam they used was nontoxic — and that it, and all materials, was made in the U.S. They partnered with a manufacturer in upstate New York, rather than overseas, which would allow them to send the PPE to consumers quickly.

Little Lives PPE's face shields are adjustable to fit children as young as 2, and come in adult sizes, as well. (Photo: Little Lives PPE)
Little Lives PPE's face shields are adjustable to fit children as young as 2, and come in adult sizes, as well. (Photo: Little Lives PPE)

The shield’s includes adjustable straps and can also be worn with glasses. So far, Little Lives PPE has sold face shields in 49 states, making them available to schools, individuals and families.

In an April editorial published by Cambridge University, experts argued that face shields offered “better coverage of the face” by “protect[ing] the facial area and associated mucous membranes from infectious droplets and spatter of body fluids.” (Although different researchers, these at Florida Atlantic University, recently found that relying only on face shields — or on face masks with valves, for that matter — won't stop the spread of COVID-19.)

Dr. Amesh Adalja, senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security and an ER physician, tells Yahoo Life that the shields are a great idea for children.

“The easier it is for them to wear a face covering, the more likely they are to wear it, and the more likely they are to wear it correctly,” he says. “When it comes to small children, face shields are much more tolerable to them than other types of face coverings.”

Dr. Eli Perencevich, a professor of internal medicine and epidemiology at the University of Iowa Carver College of Medicine, noted in the New York Times that face shields were easier to wear than masks because they wrap around a small portion of a person’s forehead, instead of covering over half of of a face, like with masks. It also does not contain materials that may cause a person to want to scratch their face — an action that could expose them to the virus.

In addition to making some children vulnerable, Brown notes how the pandemic has disproportionately affected Black individuals.

“This is a time where we have to stand up for our communities,” she says. “I’m very much in tune to what’s happening to families and children of color always, as a pediatrician... And now we know there is an inflammatory syndrome that can come weeks after having COVID infection… and those are largely Black and Hispanic children.”

A recent CDC study revealed that, of the 792 confirmed cases of multi-system inflammatory syndrome in children throughout 42 states, 70 percent of children were Black and Hispanic children. It’s statistics like this that make Brown feel an even greater sense of responsibility as both a doctor and a co-founder of a PPE company.

“You want everyone to be protected,” she says, “but certainly, as a physician of color, we have a greater responsibility to be looking out for our communities and making sure they understand what the risks are — especially when there’s such a history of mistrust, in terms of the care our community has gotten.”

For the latest coronavirus news and updates, follow along at https://news.yahoo.com/coronavirus. According to experts, people over 60 and those who are immunocompromised continue to be the most at risk. If you have questions, please reference the CDC’s and WHO’s resource guides.

Read more from Yahoo Life:

Want daily lifestyle and wellness news delivered to your inbox? Sign up here for Yahoo Life’s newsletter.