Around here we all just wait for the fall/winter cold cycle to set in. Not just Chicago's temperature drop, but the runny nose, coughing, sneezing illness that inevitably makes the rounds. Since the new advice is that cold medicines are not effective for children under six, we've all been talking about alternative ways to treat our preschoolers.
We use two methods in our house. The first is basic prevention. In addition to the standards -- eating right, washing hands, getting enough sleep -- we also run a humidifier in the girls' bedroom each night. We have a humidifier attached to our furnace, but we seem to need even more humidity. As I understand it, the reason proper humidity seems to help prevent colds is if the air is too dry, nasal passages and throats get dry and small cracks appear, creating places cold germs can enter the body. The moist air prevents nasal passages from drying out and cracking. This prevents the germs from having a place to enter the body. Of course, there are other ways the germs can enter the body, but the moist air at night does seem to help our twins.
The other thing we LOVE is called Sudafed Plug-Ins. These things are magic. Each one is a small, white plastic vaporizer you put into an electrical outlet. You insert a small, mentholated pad into the vaporizer. The heat releases the vapors. It's non-medicated, so it's safe. What it does is open your airways so you can breathe. At the first sign of congestion, we start using the plug-ins. The girls breathe better, sleep better, and seem congested for a shorter time. It's wonderful for my allergies too.