Lice are live, so a person exposed can have live lice relatively fast if the encounter was sufficient. Head to head activities, use of combs/brushes, sharing hats, all can transmit lice from one person to the next almost immediately.
Nits are either unhatched eggs or the remnants of hatched egges. Obviously, the unhatched eggs are problematic, since they will hatch in about two weeks and be mobile. Soon, they will be laying there own eggs. Nits are firmly glued to the hair shaft. The unhatched nits are within a 1/4 or so of the scalp. The nits do not easily transfer from person to person unless it is with combs or brushes.
Live lice do not live long off of their chosen human hosts -- several hours at best (they gotta eat!), so exposure from carpets, furniture, etc. is possible but considerably less likely.
You will need to check your kids (and each other) for the next week, looking for live lice and nits. they can be elusive, so look carefully. If you don't find them, you are probably in the clear from this unwanted birthday party gift. If you do find them, they will need to be promptly treated.This is a gift that can keep on giving.
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