Home Medical Supplies
What Medical Supplies Never Expire?
SonderCare Learning Center
SonderCare Learning Center
What Medical Supplies Never Expire? In the grocery store, very few items do not include a best-before or expiry date. You’ll find these dates on many non-food items, too – car seats, for instance, have a manufacturer-applied expiration date that can be anywhere from six to nine years after it’s made.
When you see an expiration date on medical supplies, it’s the period you can expect the product to remain stable or retain its identity, strength, quality, and purity. It reflects when the user properly stores it according to its labelled directions. For medical supplies, much like other products, it is known by most people as the “shelf life.”
The manufacturers are supposed to assess the shelf life of their products using scientific analysis of the product and its ingredients. They determine when the chemical ingredients in the product lose their effectiveness and any changes to the compound composition.
Most medical devices, however, do not have an expiration time. Generally, they have an open-ended useful period, starting when the device is put to use until the equipment is no longer fit for its intended purpose. It comes down to how well the user treats the equipment during its life. While devices may need repairs or updates, with care, they should stay in workable condition for as long as needed.
Many items in a first aid kit have expiration dates – typically 3 to 5 years after its manufacture – or can become damaged by frequent use, moisture, and exposure to the air. You must regularly review your medical supplies and replace them as needed. When a product is not consumable, there’s likely no real expiry date, so long as the user stores the product in proper conditions.
For instance, while most bandages technically do not have a listed expiry date, they can lose their adhesiveness, absorption, and sterility if the package is open. As such, it’s not so much about the product going stale as it’s about a guarantee that the packaging holds up and keeps the contents sterile. If you keep them in a safe environment, they should stay useable.
Two factors impact how a product stays well – its inherent stability and the protective barrier in which the user stores it:
The product’s stability: The stability of the product is determined by its fitness for use as determined by the design engineers. Product testing can take many avenues, including material strength testing, visual inspection, and functional testing. Manufacturers test product stability on a packaged product, putting it through worst-case sterilization and simulated distribution.
Sterile barrier system: Sterile barrier systems must be strong and have good integrity. The barrier – essentially, the product’s packaging – should not be broken. If a first aid kit or medical supply station is getting older, check the dressings and bandages regularly for signs of damage, discoloration, and mildew, even if you store the supplies properly.
One of the hazards isn’t related to what the drug can do to you, but rather what it can’t – expired medical products can be less effective from a change in the chemical composition or a decrease in strength. Antibiotics that aren’t as potent as they should be can fail to treat infections, leading to illnesses and the potential for antibiotic resistance.
However, certain expired medications can be at risk from bacteria growth, causing different complications. Regardless, be safe about expiration – once you’ve passed the date on the bottle, there is no guarantee that the medicine will be safe.
Non-consumable medical supplies are different. A bandage could be unusable after its purported expiration date, but that might tell you more about its storage than the product itself. Make sure your supplies are kept in cool, dark places away from moisture.
It’s easy to see the date of a medical product’s expected expiration or best-before date – it’s generally on the label or carton, sometimes with EXP behind it. What to do with this information, however, can be trickier. If you have a wide selection of medical equipment and drugs, keep a log or Excel spreadsheet of all their dates. Consider restocking items after use, as well as inspecting first aid supplies every couple of months to keep your first aid kit up to date.
The expiration date is inscribed on the majority of medical products (e.g., medications, fluids, disinfection solutions, catheters, sutures, and so on). After this date, the company makes no guarantees about the item’s sterility, security, or stability.
Sterile bandages and dressings in first-aid packs normally do not deteriorate as long as they are stored and unbroken. If a sterile product is damaged or contaminated, it is no longer sterile and must be destroyed.
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