A first-aid kit is something you don’t think about until an emergency strikes, so how do you know when it’s time to update your first-aid kit? Most items in a standard kit expire 3-5 years after they were made, so it’s important to inspect the items inside frequently (every 6 months is ideal) and replace anything that is broken, used, tattered, or expired. Here’s a look at what a typical first-aid kit should contain and how often they need to be replaced.
The Kit Itself
When it’s time to update your first-aid kit, the first thing to inspect is the kit itself. Check the container and make sure all zippers and latches function properly and that all pouches, pockets, and storage sections are clean and free from holes or other damage. The kit should open and close easily and be free from contamination to keep the contents inside in good, usable condition. Most kits should last for several years, depending on the material, how often they are used, and how they are stored.
Ointments and Medication
Antibiotic ointment and pain relievers are common first-aid kit items, but these come with definite expiration dates. Check them regularly and dispose of them safely when they expire. It’s the safest policy to have single-use ointments and pain reliever tablets in the kit to avoid cross-contamination that is common with reusable, screw-top containers. This does mean that these items can run out if the kit is used regularly, so it’s important to check and replace them often so that you don’t find yourself in an emergency without the supplies you need.
Bandages and Gauze
Bandages and gauze are first-aid kit staples, but they don’t last forever. It’s easy to tell when they get old because their packaging will turn yellow. You can take yellow packaging as a fool-proof sign that it’s time to toss them out and replace them with new ones. Most gauze and bandages are sterilized in their packages, and keeping them sterile is important to keep wounds from getting infected.
Sterile plastic gloves are helpful for keeping yourself safe as well as any wounds clean while you’re working on them. It’s common for gloves to be used and then replaced in the first-aid kit after use, but that’s not recommended. Gloves are single-use and should be discarded immediately after use. Even gloves that have never been used might need to be replaced if they are yellowing with age since they can become brittle and less effective over time.
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