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How Long After Opening A Tube Of Ointment Be Discarded (And Why)?

Exact Answer: 3 months

Ointments are a type of medicine generally used to apply on skin, eyes, and mucus membranes. It mainly consists of oil base and cream, which is soluble in water. Generally, ointments come with a tube at the opening. This opening is small when compared to the tube of ointment.

The ointments come with a seal on their opening so that the contents inside them are not exposed to exterior conditions. If we for once open the ointment, then we should use it within a certain time limit. If the limit is exceeded, then the ointment should be discarded. It can not be used further.

How Long After Opening A Tube Of Ointment Be Discarded 

As ointments are medicines, they contain different types of chemicals used for the treatment. They are used as antibiotics or antifungal infections. Ointments can also be used for skin allergies and wounds, and many more. That means they also need proper storage temperatures and surroundings. It is because some ointments may be sensitive to high temperatures.

Normally, the manufacturer labels the expiry date on the ointment to be used before that particular date. But still, there are cases that any medicine can not be used for too long after opening it. The ointments are also not used for internal use as they contain inedible contents. The ointments can lose their chemical activity if exposed more to the environment.

That means the tubes with narrow tubes are less exposed when compared to the ointments with lids. Hence there is a chance of expiring quickly in the case of tubs of ointment. In most cases, the ointments with lids or tubs can be used only for a month after opening it. However, the ointments with tubes can be used for nearly three months after opening it as the exposure to the environment is minimal. 

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Ointment TypeTime to Discard
Tubs of ointments 1 month
Eye, Ear, Nose ointments 1 month
Tubes of ointments3 months

Why Does It Take That Long After Opening A Tube Of Ointment To Be Discarded

The medicine we use has an expiry date. It is also recommended that these should not be used after the limit. Medically, there are many reasons for avoiding the usage of medicine after it expired. Generally, solid medical doses may have a more extended expiration date when compared to others. Since the ointments are solid materials, they may have more prolonged expiration than liquids. 

The drugs used in the ointments may become chemically inactive to show any reaction on the skin after a specific time. It is the expiry date generally printed on the tube of ointment. Hence it should be discarded after the expiry date. 

Some drugs may also lose their effectiveness after being exposed to the environment. In some cases, the drug may cause adverse effects on the skin or the overall health. It is due to the breakdown of the drug molecules into smaller and less complex ones. They may also increase the risk of contamination of the skin.

Some of the ointments may expire after opening the tube and using it for a certain period. The expiry of the medicine may also depend upon how well we store them. If they come in contact with water or are exposed to high temperatures, they may vary their chemical nature and no longer offer the desired results. 

The medicine we take orally can have a shorter expiry date. Moreover, they may also vary in chemical contents when compared with Ointments. We can find the expiry date on the tube bottom side of the ointment. This is the date we need to calculate if it is to be discarded or not.

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The consistency of the ointment is such that it appears oily or greasy. We use ointments generally for different kinds of skin problems like itching, wounds, etc. We also use them for infections caused by bacteria or fungus. Ointments can soften or melt near the body temperatures. They also should be nonirritating.

Common elements in ointments are mineral oil and petroleum. The chemicals used in certain types of ointments are hydrocarbons, as they can also act as a moisturizer. Some may contain absorption bases. They retain on the skin for too long, thereby increasing the effect on the skin.