How do you know if you’re dehydrated?

Q: How do you know if you’re dehydrated?
A: The first obvious sign is thirst.
But you’re probably dehydrated even before that. Once thirst sets in, in fact, it can quickly advance to dry mouth, chills, light-headedness, and eventually—if you do nothing—to heat prostration and heatstroke. Guard against the risk of dehydration by drinking lots of water before going anywhere that involves extreme heat and prolonged sun exposure. And carry enough water so you can keep drinking.

Green Iced Tea

Put 4 green tea bags in a quart of water and let steep in the sun 4 hours. Then chill. To serve, sweeten with stevia or xylitol, and garnish with mint leaves.

Replenish Sweat Loss
Working out hard in the sun can lead to the loss of vital electrolytes, which is why electrolyte-rich drinks can be important for athletes. Or so we’ve been told. Certainly, many of us find the case for sports drinks compelling—last year they controlled the lion’s share of the $3.1 billion retail market for sports nutritional products.

But is losing electrolytes something we need to worry about? And what are electrolytes anyway?

“It’s pretty difficult to become deficient in electrolytes,” says David Simon, medical director of the Chopra Center for Well Being and author of Vital Energy. Electrolytes are salts that float in our blood and are critical to proper metabolism. But even if you’re training for a marathon, your body can usually get all the potassium, sodium, and chloride it needs from food. (Good sources are bananas, pineapples, and dried fruit.) Sports drinks contain vital minerals, but they’re also full of sugar. “The only role I see for sports drinks,” says Katz, “is when you have a combination of high activity and no access to food. The rest is pure gimmick.”

Drink Up! (But What?)
For some of us, summer hasn’t truly arrived until that first wildly colored drink is poured. But if you’re thirsty and drinking alcohol, you may be depleting your body of much-needed fluids. “People tend to think, ‘Well, I’m drinking. How bad can it be?’” says Katz. Well, bad, if you’re trying to replenish yourself primarily with caffeinated sodas, iced coffees, and piña coladas, all of which can exert a mild diuretic effect.

So here’s a tip to staying hydrated: Before going to a party or drinking coffee, drink a glass, or two, of water. And then, after you’ve had your wine or espresso, toss back another glass—of water.

The Herbs of Summer
For summer aches, pains, scrapes, and bites, holistic doctor and herbalist Lois Johnson recommends keeping the following herbs on hand.

  • Bromelain To reduce bruising and treat injuries, and sprains. “This is a best-seller in my practice,” says Johnson, who works in Santa Rosa, California. Immediately following an injury, she advises taking it in capsule form—anywhere from 250 to 500 milligrams—on an empty stomach; continue until symptoms are resolved. Stop if it upsets your stomach.
  • Ginger To soothe a troubled tummy, be it from a bad meal or a stomach-heaving drive. Ginger can be chewed raw, used as a tea or tincture, or taken in capsule form (250 to 500 mg every 4 to 6 hours as needed). “This is a summer all-star,” says Johnson. “Once when I had car sickness,” she says, “all I had to do was sniff ginger essential oil to feel better.”
  • Lavender To help soothe scrapes, abrasions, insect bites, minor lacerations, and sunburns. “This is a tremendous anti-inflammatory that heals and soothes the skin,” says Johnson. “If I ever get a mosquito bite, I put the lavender on immediately to reduce swelling and itching.” It’s best to apply pure lavender oil, available at health food stores.
  • Stinging nettles To treat hay fever and other allergies. Johnson advises taking 300 mg a day (in freeze-dried capsule form), starting a month ahead of allergy season and continuing until it’s over.
  • Tea tree oil To kill bacteria and fungi. Found in any number of products, pure tea tree oil can be used as an all-purpose antiseptic. “It can keep a wound clean and prevent infection,” says Johnson, who also uses it an antifungal for athlete’s foot.

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