Parents have been warned about the risks of stomach bugs as they send their children back to school.

The UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) has issued a reminder to parents of five steps they can to reduce viruses spreading in the community as schools return.

Along with rising cases of norovirus, the UKHSA has warned of higher levels of other gastrointestinal infections, such as E.coli.

In a message to parents, they said: “If you or your child have diarrhoea and vomiting, washing your hands with soap and warm water and using bleach-based products to clean surfaces will help stop infections from spreading.

“Don’t prepare food for others if you have symptoms or for 48 hours after symptoms stop.

“If you are unwell, you should avoid visiting people in hospitals and care homes to avoid passing on the infection to those more vulnerable in these settings.

“Do not return to work, school or nursery until 48 hours after your symptoms have stopped.”

Dr Catherine Falconer, Deputy Director Health Equity and Inclusion Health at UKHSA, added: “The winter period can see an increase in some of the common seasonal viruses which disrupt children’s education and cause more serious illnesses.

“As children head back to school, there are steps parents and families can take to keep a household healthy this January whilst also preventing infections from spreading when children are poorly.

“By following this guidance, parents are also protecting the wider community.”

The UKHSA also offered guidance to parents on when they should keep their children home from school.

They said: “While children are encouraged to stay in education or childcare with symptoms such as a runny nose, sore throat or slight cough (if otherwise well and do not have a high temperature), children should stay home from school or nursery if they’re displaying the following symptoms:

“If your child has a fever and is unwell, they should stay home from school or nursery until the fever has passed and they are well enough to attend.

“If your child has diarrhoea and/or vomiting, they should stay off school or nursery for at least 48 hours after their symptoms clear up – this will help stop the spread of stomach bugs.”