Did you think the dentist couldn’t get worse? Patients may soon be required to wear HELMETS that suck out COVID-infected cough drops
- Healthcare professionals are at higher risk of contracting COVID infection
- The helmet will protect dentists while allowing them to work on the patient’s mouth
- A pump attached to the top of the disposable helmet creates a return air flow
- If the patient coughs, all the droplets are sucked back and cannot escape
To prevent dentists from catching coronavirus, patients may soon be required to wear open-face helmets that suck out COVID-laden cough drops.
Developed by experts at Cornell University in New York, the transparent disposable helmets are connected to a pump that creates a backflow of air around the head.
This ensures that any contaminated droplets are trapped in the airflow through the mouth – and cannot escape the helmet.
Along with dentists, the concept can also be used by so-called otolaryngologists – doctors for ears, nose and throat – who also need access to patients’ heads and necks.
Healthcare professionals are at higher risk of COVID-19 infection because they often come into contact with symptomatic or asymptomatic patients.
Currently, protection comes from N95 masks and face masks, along with the use of empty clinic rooms or so-called “negative pressure” rooms with air filtration.
However, experts have warned that these measures are expensive and often neither highly effective nor affordable – unlike the new safety helmet.
To protect dentists from coronavirus infection, patients may soon be asked to wear open-face helmets that suck out COVID-laden cough drops, as shown
The helmet designed by the team is connected in its crown to a medical pump to filter the air, which creates a backflow of air that prevents the release of cough drops from the helmet.
Using a computer-based simulation of fluid dynamics, the researchers determined that the helmet would be able to hold 99.6% of the droplets dropped when the user coughed within a tenth of a second.
“To put this in context, if we use the same air pump to create a negative pressure insulation room, it will take about 45 minutes to remove 99% of the air pollutants from the room,” said the author and engineer. Mahdi Esmayli.
The design features a 0.04 inch (1 mm) thick transparent shell that completely closes the head and neck – except for the vacuum hole and the opening that allows access to the mouth.
A nozzle attached to the mouthpiece serves to extend the distance the droplets have to travel against the flow – thus minimizing their chance of escaping the helmet through the mouthpiece.
At the same time, it allows for a smoother flow transition, which reduces patient discomfort generated by air turbulence, the researchers said.
The helmet can also significantly reduce operating costs by replacing current practices, such as building negative-pressure rooms with air filtration, which can cost tens of thousands of pounds.
The price of each helmet can be as cheap as a few dollars (about £ 1.50) if it is made of disposable material, the researchers say.
High-efficiency, high-efficiency air filter (HEPA) negative air machines designed to power helmets are readily available and cost around £ 740 ($ 1000).
Healthcare professionals are at higher risk of COVID-19 infection because they often come into contact with symptomatic or asymptomatic patients. Currently, protection comes from N95 masks and face masks, along with the use of empty clinic rooms or so-called “negative pressure” rooms with air filtration. However, experts have warned that these measures are expensive and often neither highly effective nor affordable – unlike the new safety helmet.
“Our next step is to improve the design of the helmet to have higher efficiency and wider application,” explained the author of the report and mechanical engineer Dongjie Jia, also from Cornell University.
“Then we plan to prototype the helmet and perform experiments to test our simulation predictions.”
Meanwhile, the simulation framework used to evaluate the helmet concept could be used to study other particles and particle-related designs, the team added.
The full findings of the study are published in the journal Physics of Fluids.