The variability of larval excretion impedes the parasitological diagnosis of Strongyloides stercoralis in infected individuals. We assessed the number of larvae excreted per gram (LPG) stool in 219 samples from 38 infected individuals over 7 consecutive days before and in 470 samples from 44 persons for 21 consecutive days after ivermectin treatment (200 μg kg−1 BW). The diagnostic sensitivity of a single stool sample was about 75% for individuals with low-intensity infections (⩽1 LPG) and increased to 95% for those with high-intensity infections (⩾10 LPG). Doubling the number of samples examined per person increased sensitivity to more than 95%, even for low-intensity infections. There was no indication of a cyclic excretion of larvae. After treatment, all individuals stopped excreting larvae within 3 days. Larvae were not detected during any of the following 18 days (total 388 Baermann and 388 Koga Agar tests). Two stool samples, collected on consecutive days, are recommended in settings where low or heterogeneous infection intensities are likely. In this way, taking into account the possible biological variability in excretion, the efficacy of ivermectin treatment can be assessed as soon as 4 days after treatment.