What are the Dangers of Full-Face Snorkel Masks?

Snorkeling doesn’t require much equipment, but there are a few main items every snorkeler needs: a snorkel, mask and a set of fins. Of late, full-face snorkel masks have been introduced to the market and have become quite popular. 

Dangers of Full-Face Snorkel Masks

Unlike conventional and traditional snorkel goggles that do not cover your face, full-face ones are designed to prevent water from getting to your face and into your nose or mouth. But, there have been many questions surrounding whether or not it is even safe to use a full-face mask. So let’s dive right into it:

What is a Full-Face Snorkeling Mask?

Full face snorkel masks look drastically different than the traditional ones. Their main function is to reduce fogging up as you snorkel in the ocean or lake and to eliminate the need to attach a snorkel. 

These goggles have everything built into one piece, the lens as well as typically a dry-top snorkel. It eliminates the need to buy different pieces of equipment as it comes in one piece. The dry snorkel ends up in a chamber through which you breathe.

This enables snorkelers to breathe through their mouth and nose (basically the way we breathe on land) and is considered to be the more comfortable option. Full-face masks also give a clearer view, which can also be a reason for their recent popularity.

Are Full-Face Snorkel Masks More Dangerous than the Traditional Ones?

Of course, if you’re using gear that is going to seal your face completely, there will be some obvious risks involved. There have been quite a few known incidents where:

Why Can a Full-Face Mask Be Dangerous?

Some snorkelers have raised concerns about the dangers of the full-face mask being completely sealed. That could lead to a potential buildup of carbon dioxide within the mask. This can make the snorkeler feel spaced out and may even make them unconscious.

The advantages of using such a mask become the downside in this case. As the full-face snorkel masks are a lot more comfortable to use, a snorkeler can perform the activity for a much longer time. This could in very rare cases cause a build-up of carbon dioxide in the mask.

Some snorkel mask producers state straight off that their masks are meant for casual snorkeling. They are not meant for heavy-duty purposes since they won’t let you get enough oxygen for strenuous movement and potentially could lead to a buildup of CO2 inside the mask.

You might also think that water getting into the mask can be of danger. Most of the full-face masks come with a purge valve that makes it easy to expel any water inside and therefore pretty much eliminates any risk of suffocating.

Snorkel safely with a full face snorkel mask

How Do You Stay Safe with a Full-Face Snorkel Mask?

Obviously, the first step is to get a snorkel mask from a well-known source. Once you have it, you can follow some precautionary measures to avoid any unfortunate incidents:

Practice Wearing and Removing the Mask

Even though it sounds quite simplistic, practice wearing your mask until you can wear and remove it quickly and easily. After all, you don’t know what sort of situations may arise in the water so you need to be prepared.

Keep an Eye on CO2 Buildup

The early symptoms of CO2 overdose include breathing problems, hyperventilation, drowsiness, haziness, and reduced consciousness. If you experience anything like this when you are swimming, stop and remove the mask as soon as you can to avoid drastic situations, such as convulsions or a complete loss of consciousness.

You can also simply have regular intervals while you snorkel and take the goggles off for a few seconds to exchange the air inside the mask completely. This pretty much guarantees that there’s no co-2 build-up inside that ever could get to a level that is a danger to your health.

Practice Equalizing

First off, full-face masks aren’t meant for swimming underwater. If you still decide to do so, equalize the pressure in your ears close to the water surface before wading out.

Always Have a Snorkel Buddy

Having a snorkel buddy will not only make the experience more fun, but you’ll also have someone you can turn to for help in case your equipment malfunctions or there is some other type of emergency. They’ll also be there for you if you have a sudden panic attack.

Do Your Research

Knowing whether there are jagged rocks close to the shore, what the current is like, if there are any expected winds, etc., can help you prepare for your snorkeling adventure in advance. Ideally, full-face snorkel masks should not be used in harsh weather and water conditions since you’ll need to exert more energy. Also, there is a greater risk of CO2 buildup inside your mask.

Stay Calm

Don’t overexert yourself by saying that it’s just another few feet. If you start feeling the symptoms of CO2 building up inside, stop and remove the mask. If you intend to snorkel out to a longer distance and wish to spend more time observing marine life, a conventional mask and snorkel is the better option.

Know Your Stuff

Always be aware of all the important information, such as how to defog your mask, how to fit it on your face properly, etc., so that it doesn’t cause discomfort or blur your vision during your dive. Learn how to loosen and tighten the straps easily so that you can remove the mask easily in case of emergencies.

Are Full-Face Snorkel Masks Safe to Use?

With full-faced snorkel masks, the most important thing is to be aware of all the risks involved and how to combat them.

Make sure you take care of 2 things:

  1. Get the mask from a reputable brand
  2. Practice using it on land before you start using it to snorkel.
  3. Don’t overdo it and think of safety first – get your head out of the water at regular intervals

Have People Died Using Full-Face Snorkel Masks?

There has been news about a number of snorkel-related deaths in Maui (Hawaii) where many blamed the full-face snorkel mask as being the root cause.

However, people may be quick to jump to conclusions out of suspicion over foreign equipment. Out of a number of deaths reported in Hawaii, there were only 2 snorkelers who were using full-face snorkel masks, so it is quite unclear if these were the actual cause of death or not.

With a number of other factors, such as weather conditions, tides, and water currents and even just a snorkeler who may have suffered from a wave of panic, it is difficult to tell whether full-face snorkel masks can actually lead to death or something else happened.

Especially, since most likely there weren’t many people around, there may not be any eyewitnesses either.

Are full-face snorkeling masks safe?

Are Full-Face Masks for Children Safe?

The main thing is to always supervise your children when they are snorkeling. As long as the mask you get for them is of good quality, they’ll be comfortable in it because they can breathe regularly and the mask provides better vision.

Make sure your children know how to adjust the straps and remove the mask easily and they’ll be fine.

Is it Best to Use a Brand Name Mask vs. a Cheap Knock-Off?

It is important to select a full-face mask from a reputable brand and to choose a model that has been successfully tried and tested. Knock-offs may use low-grade materials that will not fit well and will be made of low-quality silicone, which won’t seal properly.

This will cause you to exhale carbon dioxide into the mask. This carbon dioxide will mix with the moisture and the combination of the two will fog up your view. If you end up consuming too much of the carbon dioxide, it can also make you dizzy and unconscious.

Known and reputable brands and masks like the Subea/Tribord Easybreath, the Wildhorn Outfitters Seaview or from Head/Mares, Ocean Reef (Aria) or Aqua Lung provide panoramic views that are safe to enjoy while you snorkel.

Should You Use a Full-Face Mask?

Despite some risks involved, at the end of the day, it comes down to personal preference. If you feel more comfortable in a full-face snorkel mask, then get a good one and it’ll enhance your snorkeling experience.

Just remember: these masks are meant for leisurely snorkeling and should be strictly avoided by professional and serious snorkelers. For most people, the benefits outweigh the risks when using these goggles responsibly.

Apart from that, just stay away from knock-offs and you’ll be fine. Check the reviews you can find online before buying. Please share your experiences below in the comments.

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