I like myths and wives tales…

A long time ago a friend and I used to compete at everything. On one occasion we decided to see who had the strongest thumb by holding our thumbs on a track pump to see who could hold the highest pressure. My sister (who was training to be a nurse at the time) had a go at us and told us that it was dangerous and we could force an air bubble into out blood stream! It this true? Could holding the end of a pump force an air bubble into you bloodstream?

Thank you, Nate Dawg

Hi Nate,

Getting an air bubble in your bloodstream is a serious issue due to the potentially fatal nature of it (in worst case scenarios,) but it would take more than holding the end of a track pump.

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If you’re talking about a regular pump for bicycle tires, I can’t imagine that creating enough force to harm you. It seems like it would actually be more dangerous to hold your finger over an open tire valve, since that would give you a shot of air at 120psi or so. With the hand pump, it would just provide incrementally more pressure with each stroke.

The danger comes when you’re working with compressed air that’s powerful enough to run nail guns and other pneumatic equipment. With that amount of air pressure in one shot, it’s possible the air could pierce your skin and rip open an artery, and add a few air bubbles in there for good measure.

You’d have to think of it like spraying yourself with a sand blaster, but with air particles instead.

Most of the info I found about this topic in a Google search was simple hearsay and urban legend. Here’s the only reputable site I found that isn’t using the “OMG don’t use an air pump or you’ll probably die” tone:


So… Possible? Yes. Likely? No.

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