Out of date dressings
In recent weeks we've had some really emotive and challenging requests from Vets, Nurses and pet owners. As is to be expected many are asking for support and donations of dressings and clinical resources for both human and Veterinary patients in the Ukraine. Please be vigilant when donating to animal causes and when responding to calls for help. Animal and human suffering are powerfully emotive subjects that can leave the best of us desperate to help. PLEASE don't fall for scams that are appealing for you to share with your network or donate money. Be vigilant and cross check the campaigns you follow. Find them through a search on google and if in doubt contact them and ask for more information and trust your gut!
What about wound dressings?
Well the fact is that most dressings for 'humans' have to be tested to ensure they meet regulatory standards for sale in europe. (That's a pre-Brexit thing - but likely to continue similarly in future). These standards mean that dressings need to meet requirements that they are sterile on the point of use and avoid any inadvertent tissue damage.
It's not a lot to ask. But you may be surprised that many Veterinary products don't meet those standards! If you have stock to donate and it's human standard, has a CE mark and is out of date it may well be ok. We know you don't want to do any harm by donating it, but out of date doesn't really mean bad. It just means no-one has tested it past 3 years to see if it is still sterile 10 years later.
So, the rules are that products intended for human use need an expiry date. They have to be tested to guarantee that the product will remain sterile up to 3 years and that the packaging provides the protection required to ensure the product is fit for purpose. This test is performed to cover time frames that are relevant to practice. No one tests past 3 years because.... if it lasts longer you keep it for longer and you won't buy any replacements!!
Most products are tested for stabilty over 3 years and given an expiry date to reflect this. Very few, if any, products are tested beyond this range which does not mean that the products are not viable, but that there is no data to verify that they will be sterile after this point. That does not mean the products are not fit for purpose.
When using for Veterinary purposes there is an important and valuable point to take into account. It is not a good point, but one which should reassure those who are participating in first aid and charitable work. Be reassured. To date there are no obligations for wound management products used in Veterinary practice to be sterile so the guarantees provided by the expiry date are not even on the radar. This is an abomination. BUT given the need and under current circumstances if the dressings are sealed and have been kept out of daylight (to avoid decay of plastic packaging) then the expiry date is probably not a big deal. It's unlikely to affect the contents enough to affect efficacy. More importantly, they are very very unlikely to be dangerous. So if you are looking at a bag of out of date dressings and wondering if you should take them with you. Don't waste time googling. Fill that bag and GO!
When using dressings, remember you are using materials, not pharmaceuticals. These products do not tend to degrade and their function is mostly material. Using them at the correct time for the correct environmental outcome is more critical than a date stamp. Especially when it comes to animals in need.