How to Restock Your First Aid Kit

Once you have a first aid kit, you're set, right? Well, not quite. You need to periodically check your kit so that it's ready to go when you need it. It's easy to forget to replace used items and check your supplies' expiration dates. But this is a critical part of owning a first aid kit! Today, we'll cover the most used first aid items you may need to replace, what items expire the fastest, and a few other things that will be helpful for any first aid owners.

Most Used First Aid Supplies

The items used the most are the ones that address common everyday injuries. So think cuts, scrapes, headaches, swelling, and so on. But the top five items you need to stay on top of restocking are:

  • Antibiotic Ointment
  • Bandages
  • Gauze
  • Instant Ice Packs
  • Pain Medications

If you're clumsy, care for kids, or have clumsy kids, you'll most likely be burning through these items pretty quickly. You don't want to find yourself missing your bandages when you've got a wailing, bleeding (even if there's barely any blood) child in your arms!

Since these items are used rather frequently, you'll want to keep them stocked up. When possible, replenish your kit later the same day. If you're too busy or a bit forgetful, set a dedicated time once every month or so to refill your kit.

Quickest to Expire First Aid Gear

While it would be far more convenient if nothing expired ever, that's sadly unrealistic. Lots of first aid supplies have an expiration date that you need to be aware of. So, once again, buying a first aid kit isn't a one-and-done kind of thing. The things that tend to expire the fastest, roughly about two years, are:

  • Bandages 
  • Burn Gel
  • Medications
  • Ointments
  • Saline Wash



You may be thinking, 'Bandages expire?!' I know! It's crazy! However, when you think about it, it makes sense. The adhesive on bandages will slowly degrade over time, especially if left out in the heat. So while you can totally still use expired bandages, they may not stick as well. You also need to consider if they're still sterile. If a small rip developed in the packaging sometime over the last two years, it may not be sterile anymore, even if it visibly looks fine.

Burn Gel & Ointments

Restocking First Aid Supplies

When these items expire, they may cause more harm than good when you try to use them! Expired topicals can cause skin irritation and various other unwanted reactions. When you're already hurt, you don't want to make things worse. So, be sure to replace expired ointments!


Different medications stay good for different periods of time. Take a look at the expiration date on the package and work off of that. While you can still take medication after its expiration date, it may have lost potency, no longer be effective, or cause unintended side effects depending on the medication. Another thing to keep in mind is that if you keep your kit in an environment that experiences extreme heat, you may want to consider swapping your medications out every one to two years since the heat will cause them to lose their effectiveness over time. 

Saline Wash

Saline wash can be used for both flushing wounds and washing out your eyes. Since your eyes are already fragile, you want to be cautious whenever doing anything with them. If your eye wash isn't sterile, then you can create a lot more problems than you solve. As for open wounds, you risk creating an infection. While saline wash can last up to three years, it can go bad sooner than that, especially if it's been contaminated. If your wash is cloudy or discolored, throw it away and open a new bottle. 

Things That Can Make Your Medication Expire Faster

Not properly storing your medicine can make them go bad faster. For example, the medicine cabinet in your bathroom can actually make them deteriorate faster due to the heat and humidity. Storing them in your car can also make them lose their potency faster. If you do store them in these locations, keep in mind that you will want to replace them sooner than their expiration date.

Why You Can’t Ignore Expiration Dates

As mentioned before, expired first items can deteriorate in several ways. Adhesives can weaken, medications can stop working or make you sick, and topicals can cause irritation or infections in the worst-case scenario. You should especially be careful with anything that is ingested because it can cause severe side effects depending on what it is. Expired drugs, such as antibiotics, can have a change in their chemical composition that can make you severely sick. Also, if something looks off, it might be expired or contaminated and shouldn't be used. It's best to err on the side of caution.


Some medications can still be used after their expiration date. Items such as ibuprofen and other over-the-counter medications used to treat mild ailments may still be acceptable past their due date. Use your 

How to Dispose of Expired Medicine

Restock Your First Aid Kit

Many over-the-counter medications can be thrown in the trash, but if you live with pets or small children, you'll want to immediately take the trash out afterward to ensure nobody ingests them. As for drugs that contain opioids, the FDA says they can be flushed down the toilet. However, many water treatment plants aren't able to remove medicine from the water, so we recommend dropping them in a secure medication disposal box that you can find in some pharmacies and police stations, depending on your location. You can also keep an eye out for prescription drug take back programs in your area.

What to do if you Take or Use Expired Products

Maybe you were tired or weren't paying quite enough attention when you used it. It happens! Even if you're super careful and never think you'll make this mistake, you need to know what to do if you use an expired product.


If you start to feel sick immediately after taking an expired medication, call 911 and go to the hospital. On the other hand, if you take it and don't feel sick by the time you realize it’s expired, call Poison Control (800-222-1222) and have them advise you on your next step. In some cases, they'll tell you everything will be fine and to go on with your day.


When you apply an ointment or other topical first aid item and you start breaking out, feel a burning sensation, or some other unusual reaction, consider going to the hospital. You should especially seek professional advice if you put an expired or contaminated product inside an open wound.


Unless the gauze portion of the bandage is gross and very obviously contaminated, you're most likely going to be okay. No need to worry about someone putting 'Death by Bandaid' on your headstone! An expired bandage might fall off and be annoying, but it isn't going to hurt you. However, remember to use your common sense. If you think something is questionable, it just might be. Since bandages are a dime a dozen, don't use one that concerns you and find a better one.

Conducting a First Aid Kit Inspection

How To Restock A First Aid Kit

Looking over your first aid kit is essential to ensure everything is stocked up, not expired, and you have everything you need for your changing lifestyle.

You should do a full kit inspection annually. Ensure that nothing is expired or will be expiring within the next few months and that any used items have been replaced. Also, look for damaged supplies that need to be replaced. 

While doing the check, make sure the bag is in good condition and that you repack everything in such a way that you can easily find what you need in an emergency.

Have you just realized you need to restock your first aid kit? If so, check out our MODS and make refilling your kit a breeze!

Author | Allison Lee

I'm Allison, a content writer at My Medic. My passion is empowering others with first aid knowledge and skills through my writing.

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