Your First Aid Kit May Be Expired

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If it’s been years since you’ve broken out the first aid kit, let me congratulate you on your long string of good fortune. But in an attempt to help your good luck streak continue, let me also say this: You should go check your kit and make sure none of its items have expired. Several products in a standard first aid kit either have expiration dates, or lose effectiveness over time. Here’s a list of how often you should be replacing items in a Red Cross-approved first aid kit.

Bandages. Bandages don’t typically have an expiration date, per se, but they will lose effectiveness over time. According to the safety equipment supplier EFAS, old bandages lose their adhesiveness, absorption, and sterility. To avoid this, it’s recommended you replace them every three to five years.

Antibiotic ointment. Antibiotic ointments, like Polysporin and Neosporin, typically have an expiration date listed on the bottle that will vary from brand to brand. According to Consumer Reports, an antibiotic ointment can still be fine to use within a year after its expiration date, but if you want to play it safe, do exactly as the bottle instructs.

Antiseptic wipes. Antiseptic wipes typically won’t have an expiration date, but they usually have a manufacture date. It’s recommended that the wipes be used within twelve months of their manufacturing, otherwise they’ll lose their effectiveness. A good rule of thumb is if the wipes have dried out, it’s time for them to be replaced.

Aspirin. Much has already been made about the legitimacy of expiration dates on aspirin/ibuprofen, but we’re not going to re-litigate that. Aspirin is believed to expire five years after its manufacturing date, but Bayer doesn’t recommend taking it beyond that, as it may lose its effectiveness.

Instant cold compresses. An instant cold compress can come in handy during a medical incident, but only if it’s still effective. Instant cold compresses typically have a shelf life of 18 to 24 months, after which their effectiveness declines.

Hydrocortisone ointment. Hydrocortisone ointment, more frequently known as cortisone cream, has a shelf life of about two years from its manufacture date. You should check any old creams for discolorations or funky odors. Dr. Kelly Reynolds of the University of Arizona told Men’s Health, “anywhere you have high moisture content, as with creams, you have a greater opportunity for bacteria to grow. Eventually the preservatives wear off, so bacteria can proliferate.”

Sterile gauze pads. Sterile gauze pads don’t have a listed expiration date, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t consider replacing old ones. According to the University of Texas Medical Branch, you should replace any sterile gauze pads if it looks like the integrity of the package has been compromised.


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