What Is A Sneeze Guard?

The late 1950s saw the birth of sneeze guards. They are primarily used in food service locations to protect food and people from contact spray that can be transferred by sneezing, coughing, and talking.

As businesses gradually open their doors to the public in a post-corona era, more people are beginning to see a wide range of creative social distancing solutions, including screens and shields, leading to the question: what is a sneeze guard?

In addition to hand sanitizing stations, face masks, and informative signs on walls and floors, sneeze guards are beginning to take center stage in the bid for businesses to reopen responsibly.

Community-based organizations, such as hospitals, universities, schools, retail, restaurants, are expected to provide sneeze guards to help minimize exposure to respiratory droplets and splashes. While this may not completely eliminate the coronavirus, it can significantly slow down its spread.

This article will provide answers to the sneeze guard-related questions and nudge you in the right direction when deciding on what type to choose for your organization.

What Is a Sneeze Guard?

A sneeze guard, also referred to as a cough shield, is a physical barrier made from transparent material design to reduce exposure to airborne contaminants or respiratory droplets and splashes.

The transparent material, known as the shield, can be constructed from polycarbonate (plastic), glass, and acrylic of different grades. The protective barrier can be framed or frameless and is typically designed to be sturdy.

Are Sneeze Guards Effective?

Many people who ask, “what is a sneeze guard?” are often more concerned with finding out its effectiveness instead of a working definition of the term.

The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends using physical barriers such as plastic or glass windows to considerably minimize exposure to the deadly COVID-19 virus.

Similarly, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) advises businesses to take steps to protect staff and customers and slow the spread of the coronavirus. Top among the recommendations is installing transparent shields to physically separate clients and employees in situations where social distancing is not feasible.

Of course, a sneeze guard alone will not completely prevent the spread of the COVID-19 virus, but the gear is highly effective for minimizing exposure to contact sprays. Businesses that provide the shield are following the guidelines for reopening their doors and prioritizing the health and well-being of everyone accessing their facility, including employees and clients.

Types of Sneeze Guards

Sneeze guards come in different sizes and designs to suit several applications. Here is a quick look at the different types.

Countertop Sneeze Guards

Sneeze guard systems designed to sit on countertops are particularly useful in retail situations. The barriers are placed on a surface (typically a counter) and have small gaps underneath that lets service providers exchange documents and other items with customers or clients. You can check out our latest countertop retail sneeze guards here.

Table Dividers

These types of physical barriers are excellent for situations where people are required to share a common space, usually sitting side-by-side, such as in classrooms, libraries, conference rooms, cafeterias, and office workstations.

Table or desktop sneeze guards help people stay physically separated and maintain social distance, even when they are near each other.

As schools gradually reopen, we have developed highly durable, affordable, lightweight, and easy-to-use desktop sneeze guards with the kids in mind. These models will ensure that the classroom remains a safe learning environment for children. You can contact us for bulk pricing.

Freestanding Floor Sneeze Guards

Floor sneeze guards are mobile walls that can be used singly or connected to form larger partitions. They are lightweight, easy to assemble, and come in both transparent and opaque designs.

The wall can be used to create temporal separation in open spaces such as workstations, between tables in restaurants, food service locations, and more.

Booth Dividers

Transparent barriers can also be attached to booths in coffee shops, quick service restaurants, and other community-based organizations. They can also be used on conference tables in more formal settings.

Partition Walls

floor standing partition walls sneeze guard

These partitions are usually temporal walls that divide open spaces into rooms, private areas, and hallways. They are made from different materials, which can be transparent or opaque. Common partition walls in business environments include glass, aluminum, wood, double-glazed windows, drapes, and separation curtains. Our new models are retractable, meaning you can instantly create an instant barrier and remove it just as easily.

How to Choose a Sneeze Guard

Sneeze guards are not really new inventions, although they are now more popular due to the fight against the COVID-19 virus. As simple as the barriers are, they are not all created equal. Here are some of the considerations to keep in mind when deciding on a model that will meet your business environment’s specific needs.


The three main materials used in constructing the physical barriers are polycarbonate, acrylic, and glass. All of these materials are impenetrable and provide full cover for the persons on both sides.

However, consider the stress that will be placed on the barrier before deciding which material will work for your environment. For example, what are the activities in your organization? What type of traffic flows through the area? How frequently will the protective shield be cleaned? Do you plan on moving it between spots?

A glass material might not be the best option if you plan to move the shield around. Glass is fine as a more permanent feature in low-traffic areas.

Polycarbonate is a plastic material, making it more suitable for high traffic areas, such as manufacturing plants, retail stores, and busy offices. It is durable and will not easily get damaged from debris hitting it or in case it falls.

Acrylic material (plexiglass) is also another plastic material that is highly durable. Apart from its ability to withstand stress, it is your best bet if you a material that can resist the negative actions of possible harsh chemicals in disinfectants or cleaning agents.


Sneeze guards are constructed to be freestanding or mounted on surfaces and generally come in frame and frameless designs. Any of these styles are fine, but here is what to keep in mind.

Producing a frameless guard only takes a few parts, meaning they are easier to manufacture. However, that does not necessarily mean they are cheaper or less expensive than the framed models (as you will soon see).

Typically, you can choose between a flat or bent frameless guard, depending on how you plan to use the barrier. Go for a flat option if you want to screw or glue it directly to a mounting surface. A bent model will provide stability if you simply want to place it on a surface.

Framed guards have frames engineered from aluminum, stainless steel, and other metals. This allows the barrier to be used as freestanding models (the frames add extra support). They work great when mounted securely on a surface.

Sneeze guards in framed designs provide more flexible configurations and are most suitable for covering large areas. Models in this category are generally very durable and won’t crack or break easily, especially as pressure is not centered on the shield (plastic or glass) part of the guard. Instead, the load is spread to the frames and optional legs of the sneeze barrier.

Framed guards are generally less expensive because they can cover wider spaces without necessarily being thicker. As an example, a thin framed sneeze guard can be built to be high enough to cover the average height of a worker without the tool bending under its weight.

That is not usually the case with frameless options, as they have to be thick enough to maintain structural stability. In other words, large frameless sneeze guards might be generally more expensive than framed models of the same size.

In addition, framed options can also be connected to cover larger areas or irregularly shaped spaces without altering the actual shield material.

Freestanding vs. Mounted Sneeze Guards

Freestanding guards are movable, making them the best choice for tables, desks, countertops, and limited space areas. Their space-saving design means you can place them anywhere on the floor, especially if they have legs, and move them anytime the need arises without worrying about the cost of a fresh installation.

On the other hand, a mounted option is designed to be a more permanent feature, usually on top of a counter or desk or hanging from a ceiling. Setting up may require drilling holes, installing cables and other hardware that will be suspended from ceilings, and gluing.

Factor in the cost of installation before choosing a mounted sneeze guard. Also, you will lose some space, at least for the period that the structure will “permanently” occupy the area.

Final Thoughts

Hopefully, we’ve been able to answer the question: what is a sneeze guard? But beyond a mere definition, you are now better equipped to choose one that meets your need. Keep the considerations in mind when buying one, and contact us if you ever need assistance with customization. We will be glad to be of service.