Do First Aid Kit Items Expire?
There are two parts to providing first aid in a medical emergency. The first is having the knowledge and skills while the other is having the right tools.
Some medical emergencies need one or both parts. For instance, one can provide CPR without any tools but you can not clean and dress a wound without pads and bandages.
First aid kits are commonly available in workplaces, schools, and homes. However, most are left undisturbed until they are needed. Some workplaces generally maintain their kits due to regulations while others do not know they are required to do so.
What Are The Items In A First Aid Kit?
There are varieties of first aid kits with differing content. A personal issue first aid kit and a car first aid kit will have different supplies. It makes a difference whether you got your first aid kit from a dedicated first aid company or just grabbed one in a shop.
However, most first aid kits have the following essential items:
2. Sterile pads & wound dressings
3. Wipes (Alcohol, Sting relief & BZK wipes)
5. Cold Packs
6. First aid booklets
7. PPE (rubber gloves, face masks, resuscitation masks)
8. Safety Pins
9. Scissors & Tweezers
10. Adhesive Tape
11. Emergency rescue blankets
What First Aid Items Expire?
These are things usually labeled sterile and should remain so when opened. These include plasters, pads, wound dressings, and most bandages. If the packaging is open, you should replace them.
Items with Adhesive & Rubber
Many items with adhesive surfaces or containing rubber, also frequently have a use-by date, e.g., gloves, shields, masks, and disposable aprons. It also includes things like adhesive tape and bandages.
Most medicines also have an expiry date, whether a pill, cream, ointment, or liquid. These medicines often have active ingredients that can lose their effectiveness over time.
Alcohol wipes can stop being effective with time once they dry out; this is the same for Sting relief pads and BZK wipes.
What First Aid Items Do Not Expire?
There are many items in a first aid kit that do not expire. Therefore, you should replace expired items rather than buying a new first aid kit. Some of the items that generally do not expire:
1. Emergency blankets: These are usually made of durable materials and do not have an expiration date.
2. Scissors: If kept clean and rust-free, scissors can last a lifetime.
3. Tweezers: Similar to scissors, tweezers have a long lifespan if kept clean and undamaged.
4. Thermometer: Most digital thermometers have a long lifespan, especially if they are well-maintained.
5. Safety pins: These are durable and do not have an expiration date.
6. Pen and notepad: While not medical supplies, having a pen and notepad in your first aid kit is useful.
7. Tourniquet (if applicable): Some tourniquets have a long shelf life, so check and follow the manufacturer’s guidelines.
8. CPR face shield: If stored properly, these can last a long time.
9. Bandanas or triangular bandages: Properly stored fabric bandages can last.
Ultimately, the best way to know if items in your first aid kit are expiring or expired is to check it.
As a general rule, first aid items with a shelf life will generally have an expiry date of three years after production. So checking your kit every 6months – a year is good enough.
Can You Use Expired First Aid Items?
To prepare for medical emergencies, make sure the items inside the first aid kit will do their jobs. You do not want dressings that can not stick or gloves that tear as you put them on.
“Can I use old first aid kit items if there is no choice?”, then the answer is probably yes. An out-of-date bandage will usually still do the job. Carefully check anything sterile (do not use anything discolored as it is probably not sealed and is contaminated).
Adhesive dressings and tape are okay if they are sterile and sticky. Alcohol & BZK wipes are similar – if you open the pack and they are still fresh and moist, they are probably fine.
PPEs can become less effective at protecting you as they degrade. You do not want to depend on old gloves if treating an injury with severe bleeding.
As for expired medications, do not use them because it is not worth the risk.
Where Can I Get First Aid Kit Refills?
Many places sell supplies to restock a first aid kit that has been used up or is expired. Levande has three options for first aid kit refills; find them here.