Dr. Anke Fabian is a hyperbaric physician at the Heidelberg Pressure Chamber Center and a member of the Medical Board of the aqua med diver emergency call service. As a mother of two, she knows the conflict between children's bright eyes and possible dangers from her own experience. After all, diving with children requires a lot from parents, doctors and diving instructors.
What courses are there for kids?
Nothing is as confusing as the training programs for kids diving of the individual diving federations: There is the snorkel badge "Otter" and "Seal" starting from six years, starting from eight years then the (KTSA) bronze, silver and gold or junior 1 to 3-star, Scuba Rangers or Discover Scuba Diving. One does not speak of dives but of "Aqua Missions".
The Bubblemaker, Sealteam, KTSA, JSD, JOWD, JAOWD, JRescue and JMSDT will be certified without Discover Scuba Diver or even special courses for children. Who is familiar with all this? Provocatively asked: Wouldn't it be easier to raise the age limit and bring everyone up to speed on the Junior Open Water course? Maybe from the age of twelve? But unfortunately it is not that easy. Children push with power into the diving sport (sometimes also the diving parents push) so that all involved parties can only try to make child diving as safe as possible.
Logistics suitable for children
This concerns the parents, the doctors, the diving bases and the diving instructors. It is astonishing that in the school education of children pedagogical training and skill of the teachers are required - in the diving sport with children however this is only slowly established as a requirement. In principle, every doctor may examine children for diving suitability, every diving school may offer children diving and every trained diving instructor may teach children without additional training.
But who determines whether the people involved also have the necessary training, knowledge or logistics for the special needs of children? Unfortunately, there is no quality control for this. There are more and more reports of accidents worldwide - most of them could have been avoided by thoroughly assessing the medical risks, by paying more attention to them or by having logistics that are suitable for children.
Children are not a miniature version of an adult. Each child's organ system has its own developmental stages and each child's head its own speed of maturation. In scuba diving, however, physical, emotional and mental maturity must match and be taken into account. This results in a highly individual stage of development, only approximately matched by the age. A classification according to the biological age is difficult with children due to the large individual scatter. The associations have no other option than to set rigid age limits for the entry into diving, unlike the doctor, who determines the suitability for diving in each individual case. Parents should't lie to themselves when accessing the diving suitability of their child.
Diving suitability examination
At best, the examination is carried out by a paediatrician trained in diving medicine or by a diving doctor who has experience with children. In principle, the examination procedure is the same as for adults, but focuses more on the overall developmental stage with an emphasis on psychological and intellectual aspects. It is essential to be able to filter out an authentic diving wish from the child, it must not give the impression that it is "pushed". If the child doesn't want it himself, there is no need to even begin the examination. According to a Belgian study of 234 diving children, 12.4 percent were considered completely unfit for serious health reasons. For this reason, a thorough medical examination is essential. Answering a medical questionnaire is definitely NOT enough! As long as the children grow, the examination should be repeated annually. What exactly needs to be examined? Of course the ear, nose and throat, the change of teeth, heart and lungs, the body heat balance and the skeletal apparatus. Equally important for children, however, is whether they have the necessary mental maturity, the ability to concentrate and psychological stability. And under no circumstances should the diving doctor forget the question: "Can you swim?"