In order to be prepared when accidents happen, most of us have a first aid kit on hand, or even in the car. Because these kits can tend to be an afterthought, they don’t get updated often. It’s also tough to throw out a half used tube of antibiotic ointment. So how do you know when to toss certain items in your first aid kit and when you can keep others?
Let’s back up a second and take a look at what items should be included in a home first aid kit in the first place. A standard first aid kit should be kept within easy reach (although out of the reach of children) and include the following items:
- Sterile gauze pads in a variety of sizes
- Adhesive tape and adhesive bandages in a variety of sizes
- Antiseptic wipes and antiseptic solution like hydrogen peroxide
- Hydrocortisone cream
- Antibiotic ointment
- Tweezers, sharp scissors and safety pins
- A thermometer
- Elastic bandages
- Acetaminophen and ibuprofen
- For additional suggestions for your first aid kit, read here.
It’s important to know that many of the items above will expire. In fact, many items have expiration dates from 3-5 years after purchase. However, it’s suggested that you review all of the products in your first aid kit on a yearly basis to avoid items expiring or becoming less effective.
Most medications will be marked with an expiration date on them. Typically these dates can be found on one end of the packet or tube. These dates are usually an indication of how long the manufacturer feels comfortable that the product will be effective or sterile.
Slightly less easy to identify is the expiration of dressing and bandages. There are usually no expiration dates on these items, but you can inspect them by checking non-sterile gauze pads or rolls for the smell of mildew and signs of discoloration. Sterile versions of these items can be more difficult to inspect, so it’s recommended you look at the packaging to search for discoloration and signs of fading.
Disclaimer: Patients’ health can vary. Always consult with a medical professional before taking medication, making health-related decisions or deciding if medical advice is right for you or your child.