SWAT-T tourniquets are known as a simple and effective tourniquet. However, their rubber band-like construction leads many to question: When do SWAT-T tourniquets expire?
SWAT-T tourniquets do not have a listed expiration date by the manufacturer. However, generally, you should plan on replacing them every 2-5 years. If you have a sealed SWAT-T, you could get even longer use times out of them. With that said, rotating SWAT-T tourniquets from "real world" status to "training" status ensures you keep your skills sharp and that your SWAT-T tourniquet stays fresh.
Let's talk about when you should replace your SWAT-T tourniquets, and how to get as much life out of them as possible.
(image via SWAT-T.com)
How Long do SWAT-T Tourniquets Last?
You can expect SWAT-T tourniquets to last anywhere from 3-5 years if they are unopened (and you could even see them last longer than that). Just like anything, how you care for the tourniquet will impact how long it lasts.
To be clear, the SWAT-T tourniquet is designed to be a single-use item. This means that, if you use it on a real patient, you should replace the tourniquet with something new and fresh. However, if you're just using the tourniquet for practice scenarios and training, then you'll have no problems using the tourniquet multiple times.
Here are some factors that impact SWAT-T tourniquet life:
In the next sections, I'll break all this down in more detail.
UV Light and SWAT-T Tourniquets
The SWAT-T tourniquet is essentially a big rubber band. That being said, it is not latex (so you shouldn't have issues with those who are allergic), but the SWAT-T will break down if it's exposed to sunlight for extended periods of time.
If you keep the tourniquet in its packaging and out of direct sunlight, then you'll get the longest lifespan out of the tourniquet.
Let's talk about another aspect of SWAT-T tourniquets.
(image via sofrep.com)
How You Store SWAT-T Tourniquets (Open or Closed)
After keeping the SWAT-T out of the sunlight, the next thing that can impact its lifespan is whether you store it open or closed. If you leave the SWAT-T lying around open, then it's more likely to break down over time.
Not only that, but it's more likely that the SWAT-T becomes damaged when it's outside of its original packaging. This is one of the reasons that it's not recommended to use a SWAT-T multiple times.
As a personal (unscientific) note, I can tell you that I've left SWAT-T tourniquets outside of their packaging for several years and found that they are still plenty durable. That being said, what is "possible" is not always "optimal."
How often you use the SWAT-T can also have an impact on how long it lasts.
Re-using SWAT-T Tourniquets
The SWAT-T tourniquet is very tough, but eventually, it will wear out. The more that you use the SWAT-T tourniquet, the quicker you'll need to replace it. When you use the SWAT-T multiple times, you reduce its lifespan in several ways.
First, the stretching and re-stretching of the rubber will eventually cause it to break down. The SWAT-T tourniquet is very similar in consistency to the innertube in a bicycle tire. While it's plenty strong, it will wear out after repeated use.
Second, the more you use the SWAT-T, the more likely you are to accidentally tear the edge of it. This is particularly an issue when it's used for live scenarios and could end up being cut or torn (perhaps by a trauma shear or a rescue hook).
Third, the SWAT-T is known for the marking system on the rubber. When you open the SWAT-T there will be what looks like diamonds printed on rubber. The idea is that you stretch the tourniquet as you wrap it around the limb, making the diamonds look like squares, and thus knowing that you're stretching tight enough.
However, I have noticed that these marking systems fade slightly over time. This is yet another reason that SWAT-T are probably best left inside their original packing if they are in storage (or being staged for real-world use).
Damage to Your SWAT-T Tourniquets
If your SWAT-T should become damaged in any way, then it's time to replace it. Personally, I think the SWAT-T is pretty tough, and it would be very difficult to tear it with your bare hands. With that said, it can happen.
If the SWAT-T should be torn in half for any reason, you would not want to even attempt using it on an adult. The idea behind the SWAT-T is that, after wrapping it multiple times, you build up high enough pressure to occlude blood flow. Also, you want to have a little extra length so that you can safely secure the tourniquet.
Now let's talk about what you can do to maximize the lifespan of your SWAT-T tourniquets.
(image via swatmag.com)
How to Maximize The SWAT-T Tourniquet Lifespan
With all of our first-aid gear, the goal should be to ensure safety. While it's important to be careful about costs, you don't want to push your supplies past their reasonable limits. The questions about expiration dates and gear lifespan are tricky subjects because certain items don't have a clear "throwaway date."
In the next section, I'm going to propose a system that will help you avoid faulty gear, while also staying abreast of new healthcare technology. Remember, sometimes the gear is still good - it's just outdated.
As an example, the old CAT tourniquets operated with different features and standards than the new CAT tourniquets. As a result, many areas only recommend using the new CAT tourniquets. This is an example of the technology "expiring" before the actual materials. And, while I don't see the SWAT-T becoming obsolete in the next few years, medical standards do change from time to time.
Here are a few tips to improve the functionality of your SWAT-T:
See more details below.
Rotate Your SWAT-T Tourniquets
The first way you can maximize your SWAT-T tourniquets is to rotate them. How does this work?
You start by buying three SWAT-T tourniquets. You open one and train with it, and you have two stored in a trauma kit and ready for real-world use. If you use one of the real-world tourniquets, you replace it. However, if you don't use one of them, you replace them both in two years. At that point, you don't throw them away, you use them for more training.
This has two advantages.
First, it ensures that your real-world tourniquets don't go bad. And second, it allows you to train in a real-world situation. Removing the tourniquet from its packaging should be part of your training, similar to drawing a pistol from a holster.
Have More Than Just the SWAT-T Tourniquet
As you might know, diversification is a big deal in the financial world. Turns out, it can be important in first aid as well. In my opinion, the SWAT-T is a strong product; however, it should not be your only tourniquet. While it has some nice features, the SWAT-T does not replace the ease of use that the SOF Tourniquet or CAT provides.
If you're worried about an expired or outdated SWAT-T tourniquet, put your mind at ease by also carrying a traditional windlass-style tourniquet.
Inspect Your SWAT-T Tourniquets Regularly
Even if the SWAT-T is in its original packaging, you can still inspect it for damage. There are several ways you can do this.
First, inspect the packaging to ensure there are no tears or punctures. If there are, then you might consider replacing it. Second, you can squeeze the SWAT-T, feeling it to ensure that it's still pliable. If the SWAT-T felt firm or crusty, then you know it's probably time for a new one.
Consider an Update
Finally, even if you're the type of person who likes to maintain old gear, know that in the medical field, new "generations" of tools are often worth the switch. Why?
Well, it's not like a phone, where the only benefit the upgrade gives you is a better camera and more storage. With something like a tourniquet, new upgrades can be potentially lifesaving, and will at least make the rescuer's job a little easier.
While I’m not aware that the SWAT-T tourniquets will be updated anytime soon, you never know what could happen in the next couple of years. It pays to be aware of any changes in the industry.
Conclusion: SWAT-T Expiration Date
SWAT-T tourniquets do not have an official expiration date. With that said, you should consider replacing your SWAT-T every couple of years. This gives you the chance to open the old ones and train with them while ensuring that you have some fresh new SWAT-Ts ready to go.
Be sure to inspect your SWAT-T tourniquets regularly. Also, keep in mind that technology and medical guidelines could change in the years ahead, so keep your eyes on that.
If you'd like to learn more about tourniquets, have a look at this article on whether CAT tourniquets expire.