TODAY   |  March 20, 2013

Rossen Reports: Kids opening medication safety caps

A new study shows more children are being rushed to hospitals after accidental poisonings from common medications, leading to concern that child-resistant caps may not be so safe after all. NBC’s Jeff Rossen investigates.

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>>> medication and being poisoned. a new study shows children are being rushed to hospitals. "today" national investigative correspondent jeff rossen is here with more. this is a frightening story.

>> it affects a lot of people, not just parents but any of us who have young kids who come over the house, the most common medications we all have in our homes we assume the safety caps on top of the bottle also keep our kids out. after all, even adults if you're like me have a hard time with it, sometimes you have to push down and twist. so you wonder how could a little kid open it? as you're about to see even for preschoolers it can be child 's play.

>> look at.

>> reporter: this 4-year-old just opened a bottle of cough seyrup syrup, potentially lethal. this boy just got into powerful pain killers .

>> got it.

>> reporter: how'd they do that? all the bottles are sealed with child safety caps. that's scary for a lot of parents.

>> it should be scary. whatever they've got here could kill your child .

>> reporter: kate carr is with the watchdog group safe kids. these caps may be part of a bigger problem. the new report shows a stunning 30% spike over the past decade in young kids accidentally poisoned by medication. 67,000 children rushed to hospital ers in 2011 alone. i'm looking at the bottles, pink liquid, gummy candies, this is enticin enticing.

>> looks like candy, they'll swallow it and go after more.

>> reporter: you're about to see how fast it can happen. we invited this group of 4-year-olds to a play date , then we bought several medications, from ibuprofen to acetaminophen, cough syrup to iron pills and prescription ant biy cough syrup to iron pills and prescription ant bbiotics and toxic drain and floor cleaners. if swallowed by a child , all these products can be poisonous, even deadly. that's why they come with child resistant safety caps. before our test, we dumped everything out. we even cleaned and sanitized the bottles. so nothing was left behind. back at the play date , with their parents looking on, we get started. we want to see how quickly you can open these bottles. one, two, three, go. within three seconds, watch. you got it that fast.

>> got it.

>> reporter: francesca pops the safety cap on ibuprofen, the number one drug kids get into, about a minute later she opens another bottle of acetaminophen, number three on the list. you opened that one, too in.

>> yes.

>> was that easy to open?

>> yes.

>> reporter: the boys are doing it, too. mark here opens the cough syrup , and those dangerous pain killers . remember, this could be poison for a child . yet there's braden opening bottles, no problem at all.

>> easy.

>> reporter: every single child in our group opened one bottle. olivia opened two within minutes. how'd you open that?

>> i did it all by myself.

>> reporter: really fast.

>> i am really fast, because i'm a big girl .

>> reporter: her mom watched in horror.

>> i was frightened. you buy these items expecting them to be childproof and my little 4-year-old sat there and opened it.

>> reporter: one after the other after the other.

>> very easily.

>> reporter: what you may not know under federal law these caps don't have to be childproof, just child resistant. are the regulations tight enough?

>> i think they are. we don't want to make it impossible to open something but we want to make sure kids can't get to medicine.

>> reporter: she says it comes down to us as adults. we leave medication in our bags, on counters as a reminder to take them but that can also make them easily accessible to small kids. for francesca's dad, our play date was a wake-up call.

>> got it.

>> i got to go home and check the house of the medicines and the bottles and make sure they're put away seeing as they're easily opened by a 4-year-old is dangerous.

>> it was easy.

>> those kids are cute but it is frightening to watch. how do you protect your children? safety experts say it's unrealistic to think we're going to lock up our medication so the easiest thing to do, just take it off your night stand , off your kitchen counter and put it up and away, where you can reach it but your kids can't. by the end of our play date we told the kids this was just a test. we made it clear these products are very dangerous, they should never try to open it again. we wanted to prove this point.

>> you can do it in your house but your kid plays at someone else's house.

>>> coming up the $3 garage sale find worth 2 million bucks. no kidding.

>>> up next, are you brave enough to ask kate upton