We’ve all been there. Scrabbling around in drawers, coat pockets and bathroom cabinets because we just KNOW there’s gotta be one in there somewhere. Just please can we find it and we’ll be more organised next time, we promise! And finally, there it is. A crumpled box from that camping trip you took last year. They look a bit battered but they’re better than nothing, right?
Well yes. And no.
Tampons don’t expire as such. But they do have a shelf life, during which they are considered to be fit for the purpose as intended on the day you bought them. Some tampons come with a packing date, an expiry date, both or neither. The expiry period is generally three to five years after they were made, but this isn’t based on any great scientific research, more it’s just a matter of common sense. While tampons and pads are sanitary products, they’re not sterile (as alcohol swabs and some eye drops are, for example) so if they aren’t stored properly, they can be contaminated by bacteria. Tampons kept in their original packaging, stored in a cool, dry place where they aren’t exposed to too much moisture in the air (that means preferably not the bathroom, soz) will last for a long, long time. Those tossed around in the bottom of your handbag won’t. Once the plastic wrapper is damaged, a tampon’s shelf life is officially over.
What’s the worst that could happen? There are no reported cases of chronic illness related to the use of an old tampon. But hypothetically, bacteria on a tampon could alter the pH of your vagina and lead to infections, discharge and a none-too-pleasant smell.
In reality, it’s pretty unlikely you’ll have tampons sitting around for more than five years. But no one wants to put an old tampon up where the sun don’t shine, so remember to replace that emergency stash you have at the office or in the glove box. If in any doubt, use the scruffy old ones to remove your nail polish, and stock up on a fresh supply for the designated task. Or you could have your own, brand-new box of tampons and pads delivered to your door each month. Now there’s a thought! ;)