What is the Shelf Life of a Tampon?

words Alexa Wang

For women, personal hygiene is a serious business. There is a lot of care and consideration that goes into the maintenance of the intimate parts. Buying the right sanitary products, especially tampons, are a major part of it. There are simply too many varieties out there that affect your decision making. But there are some factors at play that not everyone is aware of.

A frequent query is, do tampons expire? Yes, tampons do expire.

The shelf life of a tampon is 5 years. But the condition is that they remain in the box and are not exposed to excess moisture. You are most likely to use a box of tampons before it comes anywhere near its expiry date. All you have to do is to buy the ones no more than 3 years from the manufacturing date. Whenever you are buying personal hygiene products, it is prudent to stay on the safer side.

Tampon tips

How do you know the tampon is expired?

Here is how you can find out if the tampons are expired:

  • Always check the expiration date on the box before making a purchase.
  • Perform a visual check and look for any signs of mold, moisture, dirt, or debris
  • The tampon is not fit for use if there are any signs of discoloration or bad odor
  • The wrapping seal is ripped, or there is some extra fluff hanging out of the applicator. A swell in the cotton mass can indicate bacterial activity

Why tampons expire?

Tampons have a shelf life of years. But they are made of cotton, which is susceptible to bacteria and mold if exposed to moisture. Bathrooms are not the right place to store them. Since they do not come sealed as sterile products, improper storage can breed harmful bacteria and grow mold. Sometimes a tampon may appear to be fresh, but the applicator may be hiding the visible signs of mold.

The next logical question will be what happens if you use an expired tampon.

What happens when you use an expired tampon?

Using an expired tampon can lead to health risks, that if left untreated, may cause serious complications.

  • Moldy tampon causes itching and increased vaginal discharge. However, it resolves itself soon as the vagina returns to its natural pH levels after the next period.
  • If an expired tampon is left in longer than recommended, it can lead to toxic shock syndrome (TSS). It is a rare but extreme condition where bacteria get into the bloodstream. TSS requires emergency medical intervention as it can be life-threatening if not treated urgently.

Signs of toxic shock syndrome (TSS) include:

  • Fever
  • Headaches
  • Body pains
  • Diarrhea
  • Nausea and/or vomiting
  • Dizziness
  • Breathing problems
  • Confusion
  • Rashes
  • Low blood pressure
  • In extreme cases; seizures and ultimately organ failure

Takeaway – Some useful precautions for tampon users

Always store the tampon in a cool and dry place – do not store them in the bathroom.  If you buy in bulk, be mindful of when do tampons expire? Discard the tampons with a broken seal. Should you find a stray tampon in your cupboard or handbag and wonder whether or not you should use it on account of it being expired. Check it for any signs of mold or bacterial activity before using. If you are doubtful, discard it. Always, wash hands before inserting or removing them. Never leave a tampon in longer than recommended. Never use more than one tampon at a time. Remember! Using a tampon does not cause pain. If you experience pain or any other unusual symptom, consult a doctor right away.


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