I've heard both ways; people going to the doctor for a cold and then getting a prescription for antibiotics and those that go to the doctor and told they have ride it out because it's a viral infection. Do antibiotics really help in true cases of a viral cold?
In general antibiotics don't help with viruses. However, sometimes a bacterial infection may follow a cold virus, so there might be some scenarios in which antibiotics would be needed. However in many cases it could be due to people demanding antibiotics from their doctor.
You can read more here (CDC site): http://www.cdc.gov/Features/getsmart/
Antibiotics kill bacteria, not virus! So it's just plain wrong. If a bacterial infection appears after the cold, then the antibiotics should be prescribed because of the bacterial infection, not because of the cold. There is a serious concern about misuse of antibiotics promoting hyper-resistant bacteria through natural selection, but doctors keep ignoring alerts from WHO and prescribing antibiotics without even knowing the bacterial strain. It's absurd that a doctor should prescribe an antibiotic just because "the patient needs to get some medicine to be happy". In this case he/she should prescribe a placebo, not a real antibiotic (and there's still the point that killing most bacteria in our body destroy one of our defensive lines against pathogens). Confirming this point, according to American Medical Association, medical error is the third death cause in USA. So in many cases, yes, it might just be a medical error.