Letter Re: Israeli Battle Bandages Expiration


I have a question about the vacuum sealed Israeli battle bandages. They have an “expiration date” on them: what does that mean, in terms of medical and common sense applications? My thinking is if I need it and have it, who cares how old it is… Thank you and thanks for all you do. RJH.

HJL’s Comment:

While many medical items have expiration dates that are critical (like insulin), some are there only because of legal liability reasons. If you pull out a bandage that doesn’t work the way it’s supposed to or has some problem that complicates it’s usage, the company does not want to be sued. You have to use your judgment on whether a device needs to be replaced or not. If you have nearly unlimited resources, by all means replace it, but if you are like most of us, you need to be more careful in your expenditures.

My personal method is to keep some bandages for practice. Applying life saving medical treatment is a perishable skill and needs to be kept fresh. When practicing, you need to work with the real thing whenever possible as well. I take the oldest bandages every year and use them to practice with. Tourniquets, Israeli Bandages, compression bandages, splints, et cetera all get used eventually. In addition, you should inspect all of your supplies at least once a year. If you see that the package has been damaged, relegate that bandage to the practice heap and replace it. As long as you stay on top of inspecting your supplies and don’t take chances with supplies that are actually perishable, you should be fine in keeping them beyond their printed expiration date.


  1. HJL’s comment is spot on.

    Look at expiration dates as the last date that the company will guarantee that a product will perform as it is supposed to…it does not mean that the product is no longer any good.

    This applies to medicines and canned goods as well.
    From what I’ve researched, most meds do not lose effectiveness, but for legal reasons a “best used by” date is typically added.

    As for canned goods, I’ve eaten canned peaches that were 5 years beyond the use by date on the can and they were fine…there are a lot of articles available that tell of research done on decades old canned foods that are safe to eat.

    Like everything else, do your research and use your own discretion.

  2. Nothing in the bandage itself that will “expire.” However it’s been noted by some medics that stored long term in a HIGH HEAT environment that the plastic U shaped part that you wrap through and change directions of wrap, etc. can detach. Supposedly the story goes that it is attached to the bandage via glue and OVER TIME IN HIGH HEAT can detach.

    FWIW, all our bulk medical supplies (except actual meds obviously) for our family is stored in Conex containers in the hot, humid Southeast and I’ve never experienced this detaching of the plastic U. And we use a fair amount of these in training. Ditto with Izzy bandages that have been stored in TRUNKS. We came upon a wreck a neighbor had a few years ago and she was bleeding (no seatbelt and probably drunk) and I used an Izzy that had been in the car I don’t know how long and did not witness this separation.

    Further, the bandage is still usable without the plastic U part. So honestly it’s probably of little concern. R. Henry

  3. Weird thing on sterile medical supplies. I was a Haz Mat Tech for my fire Dept. We had to inspect businesses that used hazardous chemicals and gases and pre plan responses. One of the sites was a medical sterilization site. Medical supplies, bandages, catheters, and the like are produced, packaged, wrapped up, boxed, and crated, then are sent to this site. They take the entire skid or skids of supplies and put it in a giant hyperbaric chamber. I forget now what the actual gas is that they pump in, but suffice it to say, it’s extremely toxic. This gas under pressure penetrates all the packaging to sterilize everything in the chamber. Thought readers might find this interesting. I know when I watched the process it blew me away. If we ever had a Haz Mat situation there with a compromised tank, it was going to be bad.

  4. For expendable medical supplies such as bandages and dressings, there is effectively no real expiration of the device or material. There is always a BUT. But, natural latex can degrade, and any adhesives can degrade. So, if it is a plain, dry, latex-free product, it should last indefinitely. But, if it has any adhesives, I would open one every year to check for deterioration. Israeli’s and those style bandages have only been around for 25 years or so, so not enough time has passed to compare them to older style military dressings and bandages.
    The only regular bandages I have ever seen deteriorate are the old GI-issue trauma bandages with the green muslin wrap, and the old GI-issue triangle bandages. The muslin on those products frequently turns to powder in the sterile packages, I suspect the green dye had some effect on the fabric.

  5. Once upon a time;
    many, many years ago;
    when I was being trained before going to a land far, far away;
    one of my instructors said that according to the standard rules of sterility, if the outer wrap was compromised (like obvious not vacuum sealed etc) or was past it’s date the dressing had to be considered not-sterile.

    At this point he paused and said, “I can’t tell you to use it but unless it’s waterlogged or obviously contaminated, the Drs. can fight whatever infection much easier than trying to resuscitate someone who has lost a huge amount of blood.”


  6. There are a couple of concerns with bandages. The outer wrap is plastic and after sterilizing, which can take place after packaging via irradiation, is somewhat permeable to oxygen, oils and water vapor. The old bandage may not be sterile in the package after a year or so, and of course if the package is nicked or compromised. To beat that, store the bandages in Mason jars flushed with inert gas like Argon, Nitrogen, or Tri-mix (welding gas). That will buy a lot of extra time. Elastic is another matter. The plastics and rubber industry is under all sorts of rules to make everything biodegradable. I opened a 4-year old ace-type bandage that was new in box to find it had no elasticity left at all. Not much can be done about that, but open one after a time and check it.

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