Tuberculosis (TB) is a serious disease of global importance, with a rising incidence in the developed world in recent years. Tuberculous lymphadenitis, tuberculous meningitis, osteoarticular tuberculosis and miliary tuberculosis are some of the more well-recognised manifestations of non-pulmonary TB in childhood. The diagnosis of non-pulmonary TB poses a particular challenge for clinicians because of the protean ways in which the disease presents. The omission of tuberculosis from the differential diagnosis of patients with obscure illnesses and the relatively insensitive bacteriological methods for detecting Mycobacterium tuberculosis add to the complexity of the problem. A high index of suspicion is required in order to avoid delays in diagnosis which may influence treatment outcome. The advent of DNA amplification techniques such as the polymerase chain reaction may herald a promising new era in the prompt and accurate management of extrapulmonary tuberculosis.