Watch expiration dates during COVID

A few months back a friend told me she was not feeling well and was trying to find an at-home rapid COVID test. She needed the test because in a few days it would be her turn to care for her mother, who has mild cognitive impairment.

I offered to go find her a test and drop it off at her home, and after checking a dozen pharmacies, I finally found one.

My local pharmacy told me they had over 1,000 units come in the day before and they were gone within hours. The clerk said she wished the store’s policy would put limits on the number of tests people could buy, as some people were buying dozens. This, of course, made it difficult for me to find one for my friend.

Besides causing lack of availability, stockpiling tests is not recommended because most tests right now have a fairly short expiration date.

After my friend’s experience, and having no tests in my home, I ordered some for my husband and myself. One box was dated March 2022 and the other was dated May 2022.

When looking at a test’s expiration date, it should not always be taken at face value. In some instances, the Food and Drug Administration is approving an extension to those dates.

For example, the FDA recently extended the expiration dates for the BinaxNow COVID-19 antigen tests from six to 12 months. The maker of the test has continually been testing for product stability and shared these results with the FDA, which approved the extension.

To find out if a test’s expiration date has been extended, go to the manufacturer’s website.

If the expiration date has not been extended, it’s probably best not to rely on the test results if you’re using it after the listed date. Pharmacists warn that using old tests may mean inaccurate results.

This got me to thinking, what other COVID-related items have I bought over the past 20 months that may have expired?

I began with the hand sanitizer in my purse. It read “EXP 10/2021.” Hmmm, that’s not good. The expiration date indicates how long a product is expected to remain stable and effective.

Typically, the industry standard is two to three years before hand sanitizer expires. That means the sanitizer I have been using was produced between October 2019 or 2018. Time for me to replace it.

Next, I looked at the Clorox wipes I keep in my car. Reading that expiration date was a little trickier. A code on the side read “MR21127 17:38.” According to the Clorox website, the first two numbers after MR are the year the product was made. The next numbers are the day. So, my wipes were made in 2021 on the 127th day ( or May 7). According to Clorox, the shelf life of their disinfectant wipes is one year from its manufacturing date.

Given that I keep them in my car, with temperature extremes, chances are their effectiveness would decline even more during that time.

On to my Lysol disinfectant spray. The manufacture date is right on the bottom of the can. My can’s date was FAB 19/08/21. The FAB date is when the product was manufactured and can be read as day, month, year, so Aug. 19, 2021. The product is effective for two years, so I’m covered until August 2023.

Even masks have an expiration date. In my case, the package of masks I have has an expiration date of April 2022.

From what I read, while the mask is still usable after this date, it may not be as effective at protecting the wearer. The reason for the expiration date is that a face mask’s effectiveness depends on it having a good fit. Over time, the nose piece and elastic bands start to degrade, which may cause the mask to not fit as securely. Therefore, I’m thinking that if my disposable mask fits securely, I will be protected even if it has expired.

If you are caring for an aging loved one, some protection is better than none. However, replacing expired products intended to safeguard us from illness is something to pay attention to.

After all, nothing lasts forever.

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Andrea GallagherAndrea Gallagher

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